Android or iOS: Which Mobile OS Fits Best with IBM i?
October 2, 2012 Joe Pluta and Shannon O'Donnell
The Web may be on every desktop, but smartphones are in everyone’s pockets, from truck drivers to forklift operators. If you’re not already developing Web and mobile applications, chances are you will soon. Joe Pluta (Pluta Brothers Design) and Shannon O’Donnell (IBM i App Store) take you through the benefits of developing applications from IBM i on either the Android and iOS platforms. (Editor’s note: Joe and Shannon, by the way, are speaking on Android and iOS development, respectively, at the upcoming IBM i DevCon conference.)
Android and (IBM) i: A Match Made in Development Heaven
by Joe Pluta
Whether it’s a new food-themed release of the Android OS (Ice Cream Sandwich gave way to Jelly Bean this year) or one of hundreds of available devices ranging from the watch-wearable WIMM to full-sized, Internet-attached Android TVs, Android has taken the world by storm. You know you’re doing something right when you have a Chinese knockoff (do a little Google searching on Aliyun to see what’s going on in the smartphone OS wars). Android may be the most important innovation for consumers in the last 10 years.
But Android is just as important to business application development. With the near-universal acceptance of smartphones as the communication device of choice and the increasing presence of tablets in meeting rooms and boardrooms, mobile computing support is an absolute requirement for business applications.
The Android world has an incredibly low entry point: the software is free, and the deployment requires nothing more than a Dropbox account. Because Android development is so accessible, DevCon will even have a hands-on lab led by this writer in which you get to create a working application that communicates from the Android operating system to business logic running on an IBM i-an application that you can actually load on your Android phone!
You’ll learn where to get the free tools you need to start developing Android code and how to install them, and what’s required to program for Android (hint: it’s Java!). After the session, you’ll be able to immediately go back home and try your hand at creating an app to access your own data. It’s really that simple.
So make a trip to lovely Orlando in October and see the sites. If you have kids (or even if you don’t!) you can stop by Disney World for some Disney-style trick or treating, but your real treat will be learning a whole new development skill. Come on down and join the fun!
Building IBM i Apps for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch
by Shannon O’Donnell
With last spring’s release of The new iPad, and September’s release of the iPhone 5 and the iPod Touch 4th Generation, Apple has once again jumped into the forefront of a very crowded field of mobile devices. In fact, it would not be too bold to say that Apple currently holds the lion’s share of the tablet market saturation with the iPad. As Apple pointed out during the iPhone 5 announcement, over 87 percent of Fortune 500 companies currently use the iPad for one or more mission-critical applications. That’s huge!
One area where the iPad usage has not yet arrived is on the IBM i. One could make an argument that the reason for this is because IBM has done nothing to make the propagation of DB2/400 data to mobile apps easy. The closest they came was an announcement a few years ago that IBM will support an Open Access architecture, a technology which is confusing, has seen a very low acceptance among IBM i shops, and which already seems outdated. By the time IBM develops a “native” solution for sharing DB2/400 data with mobile apps, the technology they are currently aiming for will have already leapt light years ahead.
Satisfying that need for mobile iOS apps will require programmers such as yourself to sift through the multitude of technologies available right now for building mobile apps. Gone are the days when an IBM i programmer could show up for work and knock out a quick RPG subfile program before lunch. Today that same developer will need to understand everything from HTML5 to Java, CSS, graphic arts, and beyond. That is a tall order for the average RPG developer. This is why it is so important for those developers and companies who want or need to develop mobile apps to serve up data from their IBM i to attend the IBM i DevCon conference in Orlando at the end of October.
At IBM i DevCon 2012, which is being held October 29-31 at the Disney Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida, conference attendees will not only learn how to build iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch apps that read, write, and share data with the IBM i server, they will also learn how to distribute those apps both internally and for the general public through iTunes. By the time a developer leaves the conference, they will have an understanding of the open source tools that are at their disposal as well as the knowledge they need to start building iOS apps the moment they return to their office.