Updated Rhodes mobile app kit makes IT pitch

Rhomobile Inc. is looking to grab the attention of enterprise IT managers and Web developers with the updated release of its cross-platform, open source mobile application framework.


The company said Rhodes 2.0 will feature new support for bi-directional audio and video streaming and a “metadata framework” that allows mobile apps to communicate with an enterprise’s existing IT systems. Rhomobile added that the platform is now completely free of charge, with the company changing from a general public licence to a GPL-compatible licence from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


The platform supports development on iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, Android and WebOS operating systems.


Rhomobile CEO Adam Blum said his company is geared toward helping enterprise IT shops mobilize their apps and data on any smart phone. He added users will be able to create native mobile apps, as opposed to mobile Web apps, using the Rhodes framework.


Rhomobile also offers a sync service for enterprises looking to connect offline data with their mobile apps. The cost starts at US$5,000 for 100 users or US$10,000 for a 1,000 users.


“Our sweet spot is the enterprise Web developer and our economic buyer is the IT manager,” Blum said. “Our perceived core customer is really that IT manager that wants to mobilize their apps to smart phones and, typically, they’ll almost always want to do synchronized data in the process.”


The metadata framework, which allows mobile apps to connect with back-end IT systems, is already being used by some ISVs to create enterprise-ready smart phone tools. Rhomobile said developers can use the feature to change a field or attribute in their IT systems and have that modification reflected in real-time on the mobile app.


Blum cited RhoLogic Mobile for SugarCRM, which allows mobile workers to access, input and edit CRM data on their smart phone.


“Every enterprise has their own schema for SugarCRM and they customize it to describe what an account, contact, task or opportunity is,” he said. “Then, using our metadata framework, whatever data they have shows up on the device. You can even change it on the fly and the field and forms you see on the screen will change.”


Utilizing the new bi-directional audio and video feature, Blum said that U.K.-based Requestec developed a support app that gives enterprise users the ability to send audio and video back to the IT help desk.


Blum added that many of the mobile apps being developed through Rhodes are focused on CRM systems, field service apps, and help desk apps.


The Rhodes announcement hits the headlines as the mobile app development space continues to heat up.


Last week, Google Inc. promoted HTML5 and Google APIs as offering a “new era of mobile apps” on its Google Code Blog. The posting made by Adrian Graham, the co-founder of San Francisco-based Nextstop.com, said more people will jump on the HTML5 bandwagon as a cross-platform way to build powerful mobile apps.


“When building Nextstop’s HTML5 mobile app, we were able to leverage a powerful combination of HTML5 and Google APIs to build a mobile Web experience that we believe rivals what we could have built natively,” he said.


“As excited as we are about HTML5, things get even more interesting when you combine these technologies with Google APIs,” Graham said. He listed Google Maps API V3, Google Analytics, and Google Local Search API, adding that Google Maps API V3 has been rewritten to support modern mobile Web browsers.


For Blum, the ongoing advancement of HTML is a good thing.


“Our whole thing is we want to let you write a native mobile app, but we want to let you use HTML and take advantage of all modern HTML goodness,” he said.


“As HTML, CSS and JavaScript advance on the phone, that’s just more stuff that you can use in (the interface of your app).”


That aside, Blum stressed the fact that users want native apps that take advantage of device capabilities and utilizing local data.


“If a developer was going to wait for HTML and the W3C to somehow how standardize all these device capabilities, like camera and GPS, that’s something like a 10-year process,” he added.

– With files from Paul Krill, InfoWorld (US)

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