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For iOS developers, enterprise is the place to be

Can't make a dent in games or entertainment apps? Maybe turn your eye towards the business world.

I normally loathe writing about the corporate world, but seeing as this is a column focused on the business of apps, I figured I would make an exception.

While it's great to talk about the latest mobile game or local search app, the real money may be made in the enterprise arena. That's particularly the case with Apple and iOS.

With Research In Motion and its BlackBerry line reeling, there's a wide opening for another smartphone operating system to take over as the de facto corporate standard. Several Android players have attempted to fill that gap, notably Motorola Mobility, but it looks like Apple and its iPhone are gaining a solid footing in that area -- even if Apple is barely trying.

In a recent survey of more than 3,600 developers taken by mobile development platform Appcelerator, 53 percent responded that iOS was the best positioned to win in the business world in the long term. In comparison, only 38 percent said Android would come out on top. Lagging behind with paltry numbers were BlackBerry and Windows Phone, although some respondents were cautiously optimistic for Microsoft.

While Apple remains focused largely on the consumer, it has steadily increased its enterprise and government rhetoric, with executives spending a lot of time on the education area. On Friday, meanwhile, security company AuthenTec disclosed in a filing that it had agreed to be bought by Apple for $356 million.

AuthenTec makes fingerprint sensors, identity management software, and other security services. Most importantly, it offers virtual private network services, notably winning a contract earlier this month with Samsung Electronics. A VPN, which gives you a secure line into your office files and network, is a key to the bring-your-own-device trend in the office place. It's also an important tool for Apple's deeper move into enterprise.

Apple's move also opens the door to a new wave of opportunities for developers looking to go beyond simpler games and consumer apps and into business-class apps.

Clearly, it's more difficult to build an enterprise-class app. It often takes the cooperation of individual companies, and requires more hoops to jump through. Still, the payoff could potentially be larger, with few enterprise apps selling for 99 cents in the App Store.

The Appcelerator study noted that there are issues with Android that are keeping companies from embracing it. The different versions of Android make it tough for IT departments to work with, complicating device management. Beyond the difference between Ice Cream Sandwich and Gingerbread, IT managers have to deal with HTC's Sense or Samsung Electronics' TouchWiz. The iPhone and iPad offer one consistent operating system, with upgrades coming only once a year.

Likewise the frequent stories of Android malware -- real or not -- have some business IT managers concerned, according to the study. That report also noted that IT managers are increasingly re-evaluating whether it's worth expanding IT support for Android phones beyond simple e-mail access.

"The renewed attention to enterprise applications shows that the pendulum between consumer and enterprise applications is once again swinging to the enterprise side after spending a few years on consumer enablement applications," according to the study.