looksoftware Unveils iPhone Client for i OS Apps
August 19, 2008 Alex Woodie
looksoftware next month is expected to deliver a new “solution pack,” called “snap for mobile front-ends,” that will enable users to access i OS server-based applications from the new generation of mobile devices, including the newest Apple iPhone. While customers today can use look products to deliver 5250 applications to iPhones, which have full Web browsers, the new look solution pack will streamline the integration process and take advantage of the latest iPhone features, the company says.
There is no denying the success of the latest iPhone from Apple, which sold more than 1 million iPhones during the first weekend of availability in early July. Able to connect to the Internet at broadband speeds (or “3G” as it’s called in the mobile world), the latest iPhone suddenly has the network connectivity to run a new generation of applications, which Apple sells from its AppStore.
As of last week, more than 60 million applications have been downloaded from the iPhone AppStore. As you would expect, most of these applications are consumer oriented. But interspersed among Super Monkey Ball and Air Hockey are utilities that could help IT folks, such as FTP clients and 5250 terminal emulators, as well as business people, such as timesheet and billing software and Salesforce.com CRM front-ends.
Soon, iPhone users will have another application available from the AppStore: looksoftware’s snap for mobile front-ends.
An ‘i’ for an ‘i’ (and a ‘z’ too)
Snap for mobile front-ends creates user interfaces for back-end i OS and z/OS applications on the iPhone, Windows Mobile devices, and the Blackberry. The screens are created on the fly using AJAX techniques from the 5250 and 3270 data streams, and optimized for the particular device they’re being sent to.
The offering isn’t a new product per se, but a collection of existing looksoftware offerings, including soarchitect and newlook, that have been tweaked to optimize the delivery of interfaces for particular applications, says Swina Kalwar of looksoftware marketing. “It is a solution offering aimed at easily connecting core applications like System i to other devices,” she says in an e-mail. “Our goal is plug-and-play style ease of integration.”
Users could access modernized 5250 apps on the iPhone using existing looksoftware products, such as the mobileclient, thinclient, or smartclient user interface technology, Kalwar says. But it wouldn’t be optimized for the iPhone, she says.
The new offering brings new features, such as support for viewports, the iPhone feature that automatically sizes and scales the application interface to match the iPhone’s touch-screen display, thereby preventing the user from needing to zoom in to see the screen. Looksoftware’s middleware automatically detects the type of client device and applies features, like support for the viewport function, based on the device.
The looksoftware offering also supports the iPhone’s Safari Web browser, its e-mail program, and its GPS capability, the company says. On the back end, looksoftware has done work to support System i-specific functions, including remote procedure calls (RPC) and distributed data management (DDM). It also supports ActiveX Data Objects (ADO) data call methods.
The era of mobile enterprise computing has taken a big step forward with the introduction of 3G devices like the iPhone, according to looksoftware chief Marcus Dee. “The latest generation of mobile devices are better suited to enterprise class, core application access,” he says. “Broadband access is now standard, user experience has improved, and device management and security issues are less of a concern . . .The low cost of mobile devices will encourage companies to extend anytime, anywhere access to their employees, customers and partners.”
A snappy history
Snap for mobile front-ends builds on looksoftware’s previously announced line of snap connectors. It unveiled plans in April for SNAP, which would allow users to access i OS applications from non-traditional interfaces. Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint were first on the list, with snap for Google Gadgets, Lotus Notes, and WebSphere Portal coming later.
Looksoftware delivered the Outlook and SharePoint snap solution (at some point it lost its capital letters and joined looksoftware’s lower-case ranks) earlier this year, and those products are being well-received by customers, Kalwar says. (We reported earlier this year on adidas Korea’s experience connecting its i OS-based ERP system to Office.)
Kalware added that the company plans to deliver additional snap connectors by the end of the year. Of particular interest to looksoftware customers is an ASP.NET connector for System i and System z, she says.
Trevor Perry will be demonstrating the new snap for mobile front-ends during Webcasts on August 26 and September 2, looksoftware said in its announcement. Perry, the popular COMMON speaker and currently the CTO of New York i OS software developer KMR Systems, formerly worked for looksoftware.
Snap for mobile front-ends is currently slated to ship September 22, which coincides with the start of looksoftware’s 2008 Europe Conference in Amsterdam. Pricing for snap for mobile front-ends starts at $1,800 for a pack of 10 client licenses, while licenses for looksoftware’ developer tools will start at about $6,000 per seat. For more information, visit www.looksoftware.com.