In a Boon For Enterprise Apps, Apple Introduces Bulk App Purchases For Businesses

In what will may help out enterprise-focused mobile developers, Apple introduced a bulk purchasing program for apps that’s targeted at businesses today.

Companies can either purchase existing apps in bulk or they can work with a developer directly to design and buy custom-built iOS apps privately. Even apps that are custom-made for business clients and aren’t available publicly in the app store will still have to go through the review process. Apple is setting the price for these custom apps at a minimum of $9.99, according to the program guide. If a business wants custom-built apps, it will need to reach out to a developer independently.

The interface for bulk buying is fairly simple. Customers just look for the right app and then specify a quantity they want to buy. After that, the store will give them discount codes that they can share with their employees. An online spreadsheet will keep track of which codes have been redeemed or not by each of the employees.

Customers can either individually mail out redemption codes, post them to a company web page or work with third-party mobile device management company to distribute the apps.

To date, enterprise apps beyond Apple’s suite of productivity apps like Pages haven’t really surfaced too much on the highest-grossing lists, which have been dominated by the gaming industry. Companies like Dropbox and Box.net have naturally built apps, but the category hasn’t really matured quite yet. Part of this is because the iPhone, with its consumer roots, still has yet to supplant Blackberry as a business device of choice and the iPad’s footprint is still relatively small with just over 25 million iPads shipped as of last month.

Perhaps this move will initiate a virtuous cycle where more business apps beget more business-focused customers, which in turn will lure enterprise-oriented developers.