Building and releasing mobile applications is a pain in the ass. Indie developers may complain about Apple’s arcane rejection policies and the long wait between submitting an app and hearing whether it’s been approved or not, but those problems are chump change compared to the problems that enterprise companies face. Submitting an app to the App Store as an indie developer is “hurry up and wait” affair that can drive a developer mad. Now imagine the same issue compounded by several engineers – or, indeed several different companies – waiting to get their apps compiled and ready to ship to numerous app stores and you have a taste of what enterprise companies have to go through every time they want to update an app.
AppLauncher, a new product from a mobile consultancy firm Solstice, was developed to make life easier for enterprise companies. AppLauncher began as an internal project that Solstice used to automate the tedious parts of the process – code compilation, quality testing, and app deployment – and has evolved into a standalone product. With a license that costs $10,000 per month, the service is marketed towards enterprise companies with the cash and the motivation to make software development easier.
This streamlining of software development is accomplished largely through automation. Instead of having an engineer (or seven) pushing the “compile” button and waiting for the code to reach a testable state, AppLauncher will automatically compile code and screen its output for bugs and other less-than-desirable instances of poor code. Unlike other solutions that check just one programming language, AppLauncher can run code quality tests on Android (Java), iOS (Objective-C), HTML5, and Adobe Flex applications.
Unfortunately, enterprise customers can only automate these processes so much. Many operate internal “app stores” without an API, which allows AppLauncher to automatically deploy applications. Solstice has customized AppLauncher for those instances, and users are able to perform a task manually if they choose. The service is like an assembly line, in that users can allow AppLauncher to automate all of the processes before a certain point and then jump in whenever they need to do something on their own or the software isn’t able to perform a task.
Solstice has dedicated an entire team to AppLauncher’s development, and has a number of improvements and new features in the works. Solstice founder and president J Schwan says that the team is constantly working to improve the accuracy and depth of its code quality screening, and may integrate other development languages “as the ecosystem matures.” The company also plans to have an entire suite of application development and deployment-centric products ready by the end of the year.
One such product, which Schwan referred to as “AppFunnel”, is an analytics tool for enterprises that sits on top of Google Analytics. AppFunnel, and other products that Schwan says will “compete with or be built on top of” Flurry and other analytics platforms, is meant to take existing services and make them better suited for the enterprise environment. “[These services are] great from a usage standpoint, but aren’t addressing some of the needs of enterprises, from a security standpoint or in terms of support or maintenance,” he says.
Covering the application development and deployment process from start to finish offers a stable, never-ending need for at least one product. A company may use AppLauncher to prepare and ship their app and then use AppFunnel (or whatever it ends up being called) to monitor that app’s usage. Then when the time comes to develop a new app, it’s a matter of lather, rinse, and repeat. Burstly had the same idea earlier this year when it acquired TestFlight, a popular beta testing service for iOS. At the time, CrunchFund partner and PandoDaily investor MG Siegler wrote:
So why did Burstly do this deal? Because they’re smart. While they’re not shoving Burstly in people’s faces, as a result of acquiring TestFlight, they know that they can offer a full suite of products that iOS developers will find compelling. Testing, analytics, monetization.
Solstice is set to go down this same path, but by selling to enterprise companies instead of small developers. I wouldn’t be surprised, then, to hear about an AppMarketer or AppVertiser – forgive the pun – by the end of the year.
For now, though, Solstice is content to continue its client work and develop AppLauncher and AppFunnel even further. A personal project that began as a way to take the hassle out of client work may very well evolve into an entire ecosystem.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]