Big IT vendors market their products as “enterprise ready”, basically meaning “ready to rip you off”. This, and other misuses of the term explain why using the word “enterprise” to describe a piece of software triggers horrified looks and trying-not-to-vomit faces. The intertubes have excellent definitions for what Enterprise Software is, but it seems there is place for yet another answer to this question.
Not so surprisingly, in the first pages of Martin Fowler’s Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture, there is a good definition of what Enterprise Software is, and what isn’t.
“Enterprise applications are about the display, manipulation, and storage of large amounts of often complex data and the support or automation of business processes with that data.” -Martin Fowler
Fowler’s book also gives some examples of what is not Enterprise Software:* “Automobile fuel injection, word processors, elevator controllers, chemical plant controllers, telephone switches, operating systems, compilers and games”*
The English Wikipedia has a fairly good article on what Enterprise Software means:
“Enterprise software, is purposed-designed computer software used in the furtherance of the needs and objectives of the organizations; such purposes can vary widely as in a business, schools, interest-based user groups and clubs, retailers, or government, as opposed to software used by individuals.” (from the English Wikipedia)
So, next time you hear “Enterprise Software”, try not to think about the dark side, let’s recover the term.