Micro Focus Debuting Native 5250 Emulator for iOS
January 20, 2016 Alex Woodie
IT pros who want to access an IBM i server directly from their iPad or iPhone will soon have another way to do that thanks to Micro Focus, which is rolling out a new 5250 emulator that runs natively on iOS devices. The new product, which IT Jungle has learned will be called Reflection for TN3270 and TN5250, will be available soon from the Apple App Store for less than $50 per device.
Micro Focus is arguably the largest provider of terminal emulation software outside of IBM itself. The company acquired NetManage and its popular RUMBA (nee, Rumba) product line in 2008, and then announced its acquisition of Attachmate in 2014 (it was completed last April).
Micro Focus, which is based in Newbury, England, ultimately plans to merge the Rumba and Attachmate lines into a single product and brand. But until then, Attachmate will continue to operate as a semi-independent subsidiary out of its former headquarters near Seattle, Washington. And Attachmate will continue to develop its own products.
The coming launch of Reflection for TN3270 and TN5250 is an example of that. While Micro Focus has offered a 5250 emulator on iPad since 2013, the company is nevertheless allowing its Attachmate business to go ahead with the delivery of the new mobile emulator under the name of Attachmate’s flagship emulation suite, which it has carried forward since the WRQ acquisition (it also continues to support EXTRA products, by the way).
The new Reflection for TN3270 and TN5250 product will run natively on all iOS devices, and enable users to make direct connections from their mobile devices to the host in a two-tier fashion. That is, there is no middleware running on a separate server required, unlike the mobile experience that Attachmate debuted two years ago with its full Reflection 2014 suite, which required the use of Citrix‘s Xen Receiver runtime and talky ICA protocol (the one that used to be packaged under the MetaServer brand).
While users will not be getting the full Windows-based 5250 and 3270 emulator with the new Reflection for TN3270 and TN5250 product (as they would if they were emulating the full Windows emulator), they will be getting the type of user experience they would expect for mobile devices. That is to say, it will be responsive and intuitive, according to Attachmate product marketing manager Kris Lall.
“There are different apps for connecting to hosts, but what people like about the Reflection iOS products is they’re the most usable emulators on the App Store,” Lall says. “They’re really designed for IT admins, those admins who don’t want to access the mainframe while at the movies but unfortunately they have to.”
Reflection for TN3270 and TN5250 users shouldn’t expect niceties, like support for macros and HLLAPIS. Those really don’t work well on mobile devices, where a simpler user experience reigns. But on the other hand, mobile users don’t have to make do with the scaled-down keyboard that Apple provides for iOS devices. According to Lall, Attachmate delivered its own keyboard that contains a big addition that will be much-appreciate by IBM i and mainframe pros: support for F-keys.
Reliability and security are other area where Attachmate hopes to separate itself from the mainframe and midrange emulation pack. Lall says the new product offers support for a range of encryption protocols (SSH, SSL/TLS) and also features an “app-lock” screen, where users must type their passcodes to unlock the app. The app-lock supports not just the numbers 0-9, but also the letters A-F. “You get many more combos,” Lall says. “It makes it that much more difficult to guess or break into.”
The new product will support iOS versions 7 through 9. Attachmate has submitted the product to Apple for review, and it’s expected that it will become available on the App Store sometime about two weeks after that. That means it could become available on the App Store later this week.
The regular price will be $49.99 per download, Lall says. But Attachmate is lowering that price to $19.99 as part of an introductory special offer.
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