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Companies in the IT hardware and services channel are having to bone up on programming or outsource development as big biz takes a growing interest in mobile versions of enterprise software.

At the Canalys Channel Forum, the analyst said, thanks to the growing trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), services customers want are moving to the web or apps for handheld gadgets.

Addressing this demand should be the top priority for the channel in 2013, we're told. It's no longer about shifting large crates of gear from warehouses.

"The driving force is BYOD," said Tim Shepherd, senior analyst at the bean counter. "Employees want to take devices into the enterprise and have the same quality of experience. The same thing is happening with apps."

The addressable market is "very broad" - from programs to create information portals to customised CRM and ERP software for a mobilised workforce.

A poll of 158 channel organisations polled by Canalys in August found that more than a quarter already had one or two developers on board, although nearly 45 per cent outsourced development work. Shepherd said that in instances where firms are reselling enterprise software it made sense to customise apps designed to improve productivity: "The channel needs to continue to innovate."

The largest players in the channel are certainly making moves toward app development but are at odds over taking more resources in-house.

Peter Spreadbury, director of vendor alliances at SCC, confirmed it is "building an increased capability" on Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and others. He said: "We are not recruiting app developers at this time. There are lots of 'boutique' software developers out there with specialist skills and experience that we can use to develop."

Apps are all about providing information to workers on the go, said Stuart Fenton, EMEA president at Insight.

"If you look at the traffic from mobile devices it would be very surprising if [app development] is not on the radar of the channel," he told us.

But app development isn't for everyone it seems: Martin Hellawell, chairman of Softcat, said: "I am not a software developer - it's a different business, culture, and type of employee.

"This doesn't necessarily gel well with a classic sales environment. If a customer has a requirement we'll partner with companies that develop apps - we have three apps providers so when the customer has that requirement we ask them to develop."

Flippantly, Hellawell added: "Will we create the next Angry Birds for customers? No." ®

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