Adobe Woos Mobile App Developers

February 22, 2016, 6:46 PM UTC
Courtesy of Adobe

Adobe (ADBE) pulled down a record $1.36 billion in revenue for its cloud-hosted marketing applications during its last fiscal year, about one quarter of its overall revenue.

A sizable portion of that business is related to mobile applications, which is the primary inspiration for Adobe’s mobile app development platform introduced this week during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The product, called Adobe Experience Manager Mobile, includes tools for designing mobile apps and connecting them with existing corporate resources, including market content as well as inventory systems or customer databases. The offering is tied closely to the company’s marketing analytics services. It can be used for creating consumer-facing apps, such as the one that drives the Starbucks customer loyalty program, or for digital systems that reengineer corporate processes making it simpler to share real-time product inventory and pricing information.

Among the first companies using the software are Hartford Funds and Under Armour (UA), the latter of which adopted it to create digital catalogues that reflect real-time inventory information. The Under Armour app could help the fitness apparel company recover up to $4 million in missed orders annually, according to Adobe executives. Another early adopter is medical device company Medtronic, which used pieces of the software to create mobile information databases for its sales team.

“We’re in a massive state of experimentation right now,” said Matt Assay, vice president of mobile, Adobe Marketing Cloud. “Every single company is struggling with mobile right now, without exception.”

What differentiates Adobe’s software from the myriad of mobile apps development technologies vying for attention?

For one thing, the tools are meant to work seamlessly with the rest of Adobe’s marketing apps so that companies can reuse existing content and assess performance alongside other sorts of digital campaigns. That’s important because roughly two-thirds of the costs associated with many mobile apps is associated with keeping content refreshed, tweaking the interface, and enhancing the software over time, according to an analysis by research firm IDC. Right now, marketers are forced to rely on developers to make those changes, even though they’re often not technical in nature.

“If you think about the way companies used to maintain their Web sites a decade ago, it was a similar situation,” said IDC analyst Melissa Webster. “Lots of manual processes; little workflow or orchestration. That was a problem. The publishing process, in particular, was bottlenecked through IT. There were (and still are!) lots of different roles involved that need coordination—developers, designers, editorial folks, operations folks, etc.”

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A large percent of mobile apps projects—approximately 42%—are controlled by line-of-business managers or marketing teams, rather than corporate information technology departments, according to data from 451 Research. Indeed, demand for mobile development services is outstripping the resources to provide them, according to a forecast by research firm Gartner.

Adobe’s offering should have appeal for companies that are sidestepping the IT department to drive their mobile app agendas. It has plenty of competition from companies dedicated to this activity, such as Kony, and those that have a big stake in the future of mobile devices in the corporate world, such as IBM (IBM).

The latter is putting substantial resources behind Swift, Apple’s mobile app programming language. In the latest development surrounding that effort, IBM this week began previewing a service allowing corporate developers to build end-to-end applications using Swift hosted on IBM’s cloud.

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