Volume 13, Number 36 -- December 10, 2013

CM First Strengthens Mobile App Story for IBM i

Published: December 10, 2013

by Alex Woodie

CM First Group is looking to make it easier for IBM i shops to create compelling mobile apps with the latest release of its CM WebClient add-on for CA Plex tools. With support for the latest OSes from Microsoft and Blackberry, the latest iOS themes from Apple, and native device integration with Apache Cordova, generating mobile front-ends for backend IBM i apps is less scary than ever.

"CM First knows how intimidating mobile can be to a company just beginning the journey," says Christoph Heinrich, the CEO of CM First, in a press release. "CM First developers felt that it just shouldn't be that hard, even with the complexity inherent in the diverse platforms involved."

Heinrich says that achieving mobile goals will be easier than ever with CM WebClient 1.8.2, which the company unveiled in November. WebClient is an AJAX framework designed to provide more compelling Web and mobile interfaces for CA Plex developers. The two products combine to allow developers to create all the components needed for a modern enterprise app, from the RPG, .NET, or J2EE server-side code, to HTML, JavaScript, and XML used in the presentation layer.

Among the new capabilities in WebClient 1.8.2 is support for Windows Mobile 8 and the Blackberry OS, which is not as popular as it was a few years ago, but which is still used in corporate settings. Developers can now release their apps from a unified code base to all popular mobile tablet and phone platforms, says CM First CTO John Rhodes.

"The same unified code base deploys readily to Windows 8.0/8.1 and Mac desktops, so the user experience is the same, no matter what device a customer selects," Rhodes says in a press release.

As part of the version 1.8.2 launch, the company also updated the WebClient Mobile component with the latest iOS themes and icon menus. WebClient Mobile uses the Sencha Touch JavaScript framework, which Rhodes recently hailed as a powerful tool for creating pixel-perfect mobile apps. The company also updated the audio and video capabilities of its mobile app client and improved how it works with the device's email and address books.

United Heritage Life, a CM First Group client, developed these native-looking iPhone apps using the Sencha Touch-powered tooling in WebClient Mobile.

Support for Adobe Cordova (aka "PhoneGap") enables customer to publish WebClient-based apps through the various app stores. It also gets other native-like app capabilities, such as access to the device's camera. It also gets file upload, signature capture, local storage, and embedded HTML pages and forms.

"We also have a new grid capability," Rhodes tells IT Jungle. "The data grid lets you, from a tablet, visualize columns of data. It's very flexible and enables sorting and searching." A lot of business apps, particularly those sitting on tablets, need the capability to sort and search through data, so CM First worked hard to enable that, he says.

"I think tablets are becoming more and more important," Rhodes says. "The products are starting to skew from phones to tablets, because they can do so much more with a tablet." Rhodes sees more iOS tablets in the i OS shops and other businesses he works with. The iPads have superior hardware compare to the Android tablets, he says.

CM First is gaining traction in the IBM i marketplace with its mobile solutions, and in some cases is driving sales of CA Plex tools. Among the customers using WebClient to mobile-enable existing IBM i applications are Hapimag AG, a German vacation-planning company, and United Heritage Life, an insurance company operating in 39 states.

"We wanted control over the look and feel of the mobile pages. Most tools didn't offer that. CM WebClient with Sencha Touch allowed us to do all the development with my in-house, CA Plex development team," says Roger Griffith, a software manager who works with United Heritage Life. "It's easy not to appreciate how good CM WebClient with Sencha Touch is because we never had to write a mobile application from scratch. It does all the work for you."

To read the complete case study on United Heritage Life or Hapimag, see CM First Group's website at www.cmfirstgroup.com.


IBM i Developers Sound Off On JavaScript Frameworks

CM First Uses Hometown COMMON as Launch Pad for IBM i Tools

ADC Austin Updates AJAX Generator for CA Plex

WebClient for CA Plex 1.4 Now Available/a>

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Timothy Prickett Morgan
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