Figuring out which is the best app distribution platform for your sales app is freakin’ confusing.

How am I supposed to deploy apps to distributors with the Apple AppStore along side games and magazines? It doesn’t make sense.

What the heck is an MDM?

Why do I need an Apple Enterprise License?

As we have started working with more and more manufacturers, there seems to a ton of confusion about how to get their sales app on to distributor reps’ iPads. Especially daunting when you have thousands of dealers across the world.

I know it’s confusing, so start with the end in mind.

That is the best piece of advice I can give you.

Start with the end in mind.

For some manufacturers, deploying your app directly via the Apple AppStore is a good decision. For others, private distribution with an enterprise app will offer more choices and chances to actually get distributors to download the app and use it.

(See Apple’s page about Enterprise Apps if you don’t know what that means.)

Let’s compare and contrast the two options, so you can decide the best way to deploy your sales app to your distributors.

1. App Download Process

The Apple AppStore is enormous and most people are extremely comfortable with downloading apps for their devices if they are Apple (or Android or Windows tablets for that matter) users.

The process is fairly straight-forward for letting distributors know you have an app in the AppStore and your app may turn up in search for dealers that happen to be looking for you.

Apple’s approval process is a shining example of making sure your app is functional, relatively secure, and bug-free. That’s an added layer of warm-fuzzy for you to take back to the boss.

Downloading enterprise apps from a Mobile Device Management service (MDM) or Private Server is also fairly painless but often requires the help of your IT department to set up. You can learn more about MDM on Apple’s MDM page.

A private app server acts much like an MDM with less complications. Each distributor will need access to the MDM or private server to download apps.

So if you want to by-pass the AppStore, MDM or a private server is your best app distribution platform choice.

2. Adding Features and Upgrading Your Distributor App

I’m sure you’ve heard the horrors of submitting apps to the AppStore, waiting for weeks, getting rejected, etc. Although this does happen, I suspect it is the loud minority.

Apple, for example, is pretty good about turning apps around and will let you know the reason an app is rejected.

The major downside is every time you add a cool new feature, fix a bug, meet an iOS upgrade, you have to resubmit your app. That can be pretty annoying and time consuming if you have to do it often.

With enterprise apps, you can upgrade them at any time, because they are installed from a private server and DO NOT GET SENT to the AppStore.

Your app is on your MDM or your private server and can be upgraded as you wish, when you wish.

This is a huge app distribution platform advantage for companies that are responsive. Plus it shows your distributors you are tech savvy and on top of it.

3. Controlling Who Downloads Your App

This seems to be a major sticking point for many manufacturers.

While some want the visibility of having a distributor sales app in the AppStore, others want complete control over the users that can download it.

If you are that kind of company, an enterprise app with private distribution is the best app distribution platform choice. No one but those that you designate will ever know you even have an app.

Of course with the AppStore, many companies release App’s that are mainly shells containing no data that need a username and password to sync the sales collateral. While the same is true of most enterprise apps, privately, deployed apps come with the ability to seed them with a nice data set off the shelf.

This decision comes down to control.

So, Which App Distribution Platform is Best?

For some manufacturers simply deploying apps for distributors via the AppStore is a fine choice. But for others that want to add features regularly and control access to the app, private distribution of an enterprise app is the way to go.

Personally, I much prefer the enterprise app option. This way I know exactly who using my app, and I can shut them down at any point.

Avoiding costly mistakes when rolling out iPads to distributors is a whole other animal worth reading up on to tackle.