Android development platform extended to BlackBerry, iOS

A client-server infrastructure for enterprise mobile applications has been expanded to include Apple's iOS and, most recently, Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS.

A client-server infrastructure for enterprise mobile applications has been expanded to include Apple's iOS and, most recently, Research in Motion's BlackBerry OS.

The WorkLight Mobile Platform, originally for Android, is a set of libraries, server middleware, and native client code that lets mobile applications connect securely to back-end authentication and application servers. Recently, WorkLight created a native software layer for Apple's iOS, to support iPhone and iPad applications. Now the software includes support for BlackBerry OS 5 and 6.

For BlackBerry, software developers can create either Web or native applications.

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A major European online bank is using WorkLight to support new iOS applications, according to lead application architect for the project, who, citing company policy, requested anonymity. The bank is targeting roughly 100,000 active iPhone customers who until now haven't been able to use their smartphone for online banking activities. The bank is testing native iOS applications, built with the WorkLight development tools, and connecting securely through WorkLight's server program to the bank's back-end systems. In the future, the bank plans to leverage the WorkLight components to easily adapt applications for Android and BlackBerry users also, according to this developer.

The WorkLight platform has several components. WorkLight Studio is a plug-in and toolset for the Eclipse integrated development environment. It supports both the native SDKs for iOS, BlackBerry and Android, and standard Web-based development technologies, such as HTML, CSS and Javascript. Studio fully supports the respective online application catalogs of all three mobile operating systems.

WorkLight Server creates the enterprise-based runtime environment for WorkLight applications. It offers pre-built XML "adapters" that connect to range of back-end systems via standard or proprietary interfaces, and Web services, such as SQL, LDAP, SharePoint, SAP, HTTP, REST, WSDL/SOAP. It also supports APIs from Facebook and Twitter. A flexible caching system on WorkLight Server lets the applications scale.

The approach simplifies client code and lets the enterprise make changes on the server side without having to redeploy the client software, says Ron Perry, CTO for WorkLight.

The server also handles event logging, which is the basis for a range of reports on application usage, problems and trends, all via the WorkLight Console. WorkLight Server sits behind the enterprise firewall and supports HTTP/S.

WorkLight Server processes the client application requests, makes the appropriate back-end connections, and then formats the resulting data for the specific requesting device.

For iOS, WorkLight created a new Objective C library, which can be easily included with an iPhone application to handle communications with the WorkLight Server. The arrangement gives the enterprise a central point of control for iOS applications that are accessing enterprise resources, while fully exploiting the rich user interface capabilities for these modern smartphone operating systems, according to Perry.

WorkLight applications created for one such OS can be fairly easily adapted for other platforms, he says: Much of the client code can be repurposed with the corresponding SDK, and exploit the same server-side WorkLight features.

There are a range of companies attacking mobile development from several different viewpoints. Sybase offers its Sybase Unwired Platform.  Sencha (formerly Ext JS) has adapted its cross-platform, desktop browser application framework for mobile browsers (as long as they're based on Webkit), called Sencha Touch: It supports HTML 5, Cascading Style Sheets 3, and Javascript.

Pricing for WorkLight Mobile Platform is based on the number of  users who are using a WorkLight-created and -deployed mobile application. The entry point pricing is about $20,000 for licensing the entire platform for "several thousands of users,"according to Yonni Harif, WorkLight marketing manager.

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John Cox

Network World
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