Micro Focus Finally Goes GA with RUMBA for iPad
October 22, 2013 Alex Woodie
Micro Focus last week announced the general availability for its RUMBA 5250/3270 emulator for the iPad. The GA announcement comes a full nine months after the UK-based firm originally launched the emulator for iPad as part of its RUMBA+ roll-out. The Surface client is available now, but the Android client that Micro Focus had originally slated to get into its users hands by last spring will likely be delayed until 2014.
The mad dash to merge mobile functionality into our daily lives is not abating. The mobile revolution is here to stay, and it promises to reshape how we think about computers and interact with data and applications. It is apparent that we are at the tip of a very big change in the computer landscape, and some vendors are having trouble adapting.
The mobile revolution is creating risks and opportunities, both in the IT world at large and also in the little niche we call the IBM i community. Some software vendors are trying to get ahead of the wave by creating mobile apps for their existing IBM i applications, or by giving users the tooling to create their own. Whether they use an HTML, native, hybrid, or PhoneGap approach is not important. What’s important is there’s a lot of innovation going on.
Then there are the terminal emulation vendors, who owe their very existences to the last great disruption in IT–the shift from mainframe-style computing to client-server computing (okay, maybe the second-to-last big disruption, if one counts the Web). These vendors delivered emulators that enabled IBM PCs (and then Web browsers) to pretend to be 5250 or 3270 dumb terminals.
The delivery of a TN5250 or a TN3270 interface on a mobile device like an iPad is, at best, a stopgap measure. The eventual goal has to be delivering an interface (or an app) that looks like it belongs on an iPad and delivers the user experience that is expected. In lieu of that delivery (which takes time, money, and skills), we go on accessing green screen apps from our Samsungs, HTCs, and iPhones, and continue to trick the midrange or mainframe server into thinking it’s talking to a dumb terminal from the 1970s.
Which brings us to Micro Focus, which today finds itself the owner of the RUMBA line of terminal emulators that was originally developed by Wall Data, then handed over to NetManage, which Micro Focus bought. RUMBA has a long and storied history in the midrange, and is probably the second largest provider of terminal emulation software for IBM i, after IBM itself.
Micro Focus was one of the vendors participating in a great flurry of product announcements at the beginning of the year in the mobile emulation space. If you go back into the Four Hundred Stuff time machine (also known as the Back Issues Archive), one can see a period of several weeks in January and February that saw succession of mobile announcement from the emulator and app modernization vendors, including Micro Focus, Attachmate, Software AG (owner of the Jacada Integration Server), and Rocket Software (owner of the Seagull LegaSuite products).
On January 17, Micro Focus launched RUMBA version and its new RUMBA+ brand, which we dutifully reported the following week. The idea with RUMBA+ was fairly simple: Micro Focus would allow customers to deliver interfaces to Windows, Web browsers, and mobile devices with a single product line.
To that end, it delivered three new clients, dubbed RUMBA+ Desktop, RUMBA+ Web, and RUMBA+ Mobile. The new mobile client would initially support just the iPad–which for some reason is the mobile darling among corporations and schools. The mobile client supported some of RUMBA’s pre-existing 5250 emulator features, like support for function keys and encryption, but not for others, like FTP or printing. Notably, it offered two modes, including regular terminal emulator mode, and on-the-fly transformation of green screen interfaces into touch-enabled interfaces.
It turns out that some of the new RUMBA+ clients, like the RUMBA+Mobile interface, actually were not delivered back in January, because last week, on October 17, exactly nine months after they were “launched,” Micro Focus announced “the availability” of Rumba+ Mobile on iPad.
Besides the fact that Micro Focus is moving away from the all caps “RUMBA” to a more subdued “Rumba” (perhaps not to draw much attention to itself), what are the differences between the product Micro Focus talked about in January and the one that’s available now? Nothing, save for the fact that RUMBA+ Mobile for iPad is now available on the iTunes store.