Profound Reveals Native Mobile App Option
June 4, 2013 Dan Burger
Profound Logic has developed ways for IBM midrange companies to create mobile applications using its designer tool and deploying to the Web and through hybrid applications (not quite native) via PhoneGap. This week it is adding another option with native apps for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Native application capability is the quickest and easiest way to deploy mobile apps and those are two huge priorities for a lot of companies.
Two months ago, Profound was espousing the open source framework that the software vendor incorporated into Profound UI 4.5. Now it’s the native application enhancements that have become the talking points in this latest Profound UI uptick, which is now version 4.6. In addition to the availability of a native mobile client for publishing applications to iTunes and Android app stores, this package also includes mobile-specific widgets and properties such as CSS3-based panels and buttons, textbox placeholders, mobile click-to-call and click-to-navigate capabilities, synchronization of offline applications, and usability features such as accordion-style layout with scrollable content sections.
The benefits are not minimal.
Profound’s native apps can unquestionably take advantage of the popular features built into smartphones and tablets. It’s one heck of a shortcut compared to building your own native app from scratch, which requires RPG programmers to wade into unfamiliar languages and then go through the approval processes required by the operating systems of each of the devices. The Apple approval process is especially arduous; the Android is less so, but still time consuming. Developing hybrid apps with PhoneGap, for instance, avoids the app stores and therefore the approval processes, but it is not as simple to deploy as buying a native app. With PhoneGap, you’ll need some tools, some templates, and a Mac computer.
The Profound UI 4.6 mobile client is a free download. During the download, users are prompted to connect to a specific IBM i server, specify a host name, report the IP address, and identify how the connection is being made. It’s quick and straightforward. The convenience is the main attraction.
In order for IBM i data to be accessed in real time, the mobile client communicates with the Profound UI server component, which must be installed and configured on the IBM i server. This allows existing IBM i character-based applications to be converted and accessed using a rich user interface on the mobile device. The reason most programmers like a native app is because IBM i data can be retrieved, updated, and/or integrated with native device features, the camera, for instance.
A couple of things about the native app are worth noting, however, if you are wondering whether native is the right choice for you.
When the native app appears on the mobile device, it will be identified as the Profound UI Mobile Client. Some companies want to see the app branded with the company name and matching a company look and feel. If that’s a requirement, you can’t use the native app, but you’ll be spending more time developing your company-branded app.
Another consideration is whether offline capabilities are a priority. The native app cannot collect info and synchronize it later without a constant connection to the IBM i server. Companies that want that feature can get it with Profound’s hybrid PhoneGap option.
In short, the native apps keep things simple and PhoneGap hybrid apps provide more control. Companies that decide the native capabilities–GPS navigation and camera being the most popular–are not necessary can still choose to do mobile Web application development. Profound has that base covered. But factors that also enter into Web development decisions include whether there will be cross-linking integration with other Web apps and whether the visible URL in a Web app is a concern. A URL could reveal system parameters, for instance, which may be a security issue.
In addition to the native mobile client, Profound UI 4.6 also has added to the collection of widgets it has packaged in earlier versions of UI. For instance, the integration with Java Query is new and there are enhancements to visual designer that make it easier to create buttons and panels without coding. The same is true for click to call and click to navigate–no coding required.
The organization of data on the mobile device is simplified through the use of an accordion layout widget. This is convenient when the amount of data requires a tedious amount of scrolling to comb through it in its entirety. Small screens can be a pain in the patootie that way. An accordion-style layout puts lengthy data into sections and makes it easy to navigate from one section to another.
“We wanted to make developing mobile applications with Profound UI as easy as possible, and that meant streamlining how our customers made those apps available to their end users,” says Profound Logic CEO Alex Roytman. “Now developers can simply connect to their IBM i server via the Profound UI mobile client located within the iTunes and Android app stores, and the mobile applications they’ve created with Profound UI can be available to their users in a matter of minutes.”
Perhaps you noticed that no mention has been made of the Microsoft or Blackberry operating systems. They are not the OSes that are creating the big demand at this time, but Profound says it will keep an eye on them and could tweak their code for Microsoft and Blackberry if the market calls for one or the other or both.