There are Only Two Kinds of Device Apps

Just the other day a colleague and I were having an interesting discussion. After a while we realized we were talking about the same things but we each used different vocabulary to describe the things we were referring to. I hate when that happens.

I thought it would be useful to provide a common definition for the types of device (aka mobile) apps we see in the market to help establish a common vocabulary.

As I see it, device applications can be categorized as being either consumer applications or business applications (my colleague likes the term “corporate applications”). These are then also sub-divided, but I’ll get to that soon.

Consumer Applications

IMG_0057Consumer applications are exactly what the name implies – applications used by consumers. These are typically purchased through an app store or market place by the consumer directly. I tend to sub-divide these into five types: data snacking, social/mash-up, content/media, casual games and graphical games.

The key attribute here is that these are acquired directly by the user for a specific non-business purpose. Facebook, Angry Birds, etc. are examples of these types. There is some easy confusion here when we start to think about business (or “corporate”) applications, specifically those intended to connect the user to the business. Is Facebook a B2C app? Not really. It is the product of a company, but primarily a consumer app.

Business Applications

Business applications are built for only a couple reasons – B2C or internal line-of-business (LOB), and it can be easy to blur the line (or at least see the line with blurry vision) if you’re not careful. Some may argue that B2B is another type, but my position is that there is no such thing as a B2B device applications. They are B2C applications where the “C” is simply a user from a client “B”.

B2C

Business to Consumer (B2C) apps are the apps most easily confused with “direct” consumer apps. Is Facebook a consumer app or a B2C app? I think I could argue this one successfully in either direction, but I prefer to think of it as a consumer app (Facebook’s primary business is Facebook, even though IMG_0058their revenue comes from sources other than the user). For B2C I like to think about the company’s primary business. Is the app their primary business, or are they in the business of something else, and the app helps them provide a better experience for their customer?

Alaska Airlines is a company I do a lot of business with. They have a great B2C app. As the consumer, I got the app from the Apple AppStore, even though it’s not a consumer app (see, I told you it could get blurry). This app is a great example of a company that is primarily in a different business (moving people and stuff through the air),who has a great app for their customers. I can use the app to check my upcoming trips, check in for flights, and—for those of you who aspire to be truly paperless—even use it as my boarding pass.

My colleague likes to refer to these B2C apps as “Corporate Consumer Apps.”

LOB Apps

Line-of-Business apps are built by companies (or vendors) for use within the confines of their business. Examples include expense tracking apps, conference room schedulers, and lunchroom debit apps (at Microsoft we even had a game app that the food services division put out enabling you to win a discount on lunch using your Windows Phone). Typically these are developed in house for a specific need, and distributed through some form of internal or enterprise app store.

These are what my colleague refers to as “Corporate Enterprise Apps.”

What Do You Think?

Do you agree with me? When thinking about the different app types for mobile devices, do we agree on the following terms:

  • Consumer apps
    • Data Snacking
    • Social/Mash-up
    • Content/Media
    • Casual Games
    • Graphical Games
  • Business Apps
    • Business to Consumer (B2C)
    • Line-of-Business (LOB)

D7

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