Sybase subsidiary iAnywhere Solutions has announced a service that supports the designing, building, hosting and running of wireless applications for enterprise customers in the US.
Rival offerings often focus only or mainly on wireless Internet applications using mobile phones, a text-oriented microbrowser and wireless application protocol (WAP). But iAnywhere executives say competitive offerings aren't enough for corporate customers whose end users may use laptops, handheld computers, pagers or a combination of devices that use wireless protocols other than WAP.
"We support WAP. But in addition, we know how to build and deploy business applications that don't always have to be connected [to the Internet]," says Rob Veitch, iAnywhere's director of business development. Instead, part of the applications run on the client devices, and they can run over long-standing Cellular Digital Packet Data networks, as well as established data nets such as BellSouth's Mobitex-based Intelligent Wireless Network.
The new service, available by the end of the year, is made possible by combining iAnywhere's wireless software products, including a mobile database and synchronisation server, with Broadbeam's client-server message-queuing software and round-the-clock hosting service.
The combination lets handheld devices run applications locally using the database, synchronisation and message-queuing client components, and connects to the Broadbeam data centre via one of 14 wide-area wireless networks. Broadbeam connects to enterprise networks via IP over leased lines or a VPN.
By contrast, WAP applications are generally limited to mobile phones with four-line text screens, and the user has to be connected to the Internet for the application to work because the application runs entirely on servers.
Veitch acknowledges that other service providers and even some systems integrators also offer, or at least promise, soup-to-nuts service. But, he says, most of these are focused on WAP applications, not on exploiting the power of mobile computing through client applications and data synchronisation.
For example, many companies use a time-consuming paper process to capture time and expense data from employees. This data is often manually keyed into corporate applications for processing, he says.
A wireless client approach lets consultants or field technicians enter data immediately into their handhelds, do some processing, then synchronise with corporate databases daily.
Pricing for the new service is still being decided, but will include a monthly fee for connecting to the iAnywhere Wireless Server as well as a per-user charge.
Veitch says there will be three price schemes: one for an initial three-month development program, one for a pilot program to test the application with less than 50 users, and one for full-scale deployment.