AvantGo upgrades M-Business Server

A new version of AvantGo Inc.’s M-Business Server is scheduled for release May 13, featuring Web services support, an enhanced browser and new tools for programmers.

AvantGo M-Business Server 5.0 Application Edition is intended for enterprises designing and deploying corporate applications for handheld devices. Version 5.0 of the software is a total overhaul, according to AvantGo, with features intended to cut the development time and cost of building custom applications.

The upgraded software supports DHTML (Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language), XML (Extensible Markup Language), XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language), cascading style sheets, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and Microsoft Corp.’s .Net. The software works with a variety of handheld devices, including Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry, Pocket PCs, and handhelds running the PalmOS operating system.

“This provides a bridge, a gateway, between your desktop and your handheld,” said Felix Lin, AvantGo’s vice-chairman and co-founder.

Companies using the software can deliver applications and interfaces that previously would have been prohibitively expensive to create, and users will benefit from a look and feel akin to what they’re used to on their PCs, he said.

AvantGo’s last M-Business Server upgrade, to Version 4.0, took place in March 2001. This time, the company is both updating and splintering the product line. The M-Business Server 5.0 Application Edition, targeted at developers and enterprise customers, is bolstered with an array of high-end features, while the M-Business Server 5.0 Web Edition will be a lower end successor to M-Business Server 4.0.

M-Business Server 5.0 Web Edition is scheduled for release in late May, at which time AvantGo will describe the product in more detail, Lin said. Current customers with a maintenance contract will receive the Web Edition unless they choose to upgrade to the Application Edition.

Medical information publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (LWW), a Philadelphia-based unit of Dutch publishing company Wolters Kluwer NV, has been using AvantGo’s M-Business Server for more than a year as a delivery mechanism for its publications. LWW has been beta-testing version 5.0 since February and plans to soon roll out the software for use by its 6,000 customers.

The user interface is one of the new software’s key advantages, said LWW software engineer Heather Gazdik.

“It gives the look and feel of a Web page on the device, which lets users access our content more efficiently,” Gazdik said.

McKesson Corp. is using the upgraded AvantGo software to deliver information to health care professionals. The San Francisco company’s Horizon MobileCare Rounding software offers hospital workers a conduit to information such as patient charts and lab reports.

“Doctors are the classic mobile knowledge worker. They can’t be parked at a desk,” noted Bruce Kantelis, McKesson’s vice-president of mobile computing.

The M-Business Server 5.0 Application Edition’s multiplatform functionality and content management tools, such as its XML and DHTML support, are key advantages of the software, he said.

“You need applications that are interoperable at the device level. You don’t want to have to open and search five different applications to find ‘Jane Doe’ in the five applications. You need a common navigational environment across applications, and that’s what AvantGo brings,” Kantelis said.

The AvantGo M-Business Server 5.0 Application Edition is available worldwide, priced at US$249 per developer seat. AvantGo is offering a free trial version of the software through Sept. 1.