Antenna’s visual tools drive simpler mobile app development

A mobile applications vendor has revamped its internal development tools and is now offering them to enterprise customers.

With the new Antenna Mobility Platform Studio, enterprises can work with Web services, and the Antenna middleware and client runtime, to build and deploy mobile applications accessing an array of backend CRM, ERP and other applications.

AT&T (Cingular) is adopting AMP Studio to build, deploy and support a CRM application for its mobile sales teams working with enterprise customers. The carrier also will use Studio as the basis for “mobilizing” enterprise applications for mid-market enterprise customers in key vertical markets, such as property and casualty claims for insurance companies.

Antenna Software is betting that many enterprise sites want to be able to go beyond mobile e-mail, or other stand-alone applications such as mobile sales force automation, says Jim Hemmer, CEO for Antenna. “Increasingly, they’re interacting with multiple back-end systems,” he says. “Users may need customer data from a CRM package, parts information from ERP, and timesheet data from an accounting package."

Until now, Antenna sold mobile applications that worked with its collection of middleware programs: AMP Gateway middleware, which supports messaging between clients and backend enterprise applications; AMP Mobile Connect, with several options for clients to link with back-end data and applications; and AMP Management Center, with several programs for administering users and their devices, as well as for provisioning handhelds and monitoring the various AMP components.

The company did offer several tools that let customers tailor AMP’s ready-to-run applications for field sales and field service users.

But AMP Studio goes well beyond those tools, according to Hemmer.

Studio is a complete, visual, integrated development environment: all the tools needed to design, create, test, deploy, and update mobile applications. Based on Java and XML, the software is designed as a plug-in for Eclipse, the open source IDE.

Studio includes ready-to-use application templates, which can be tailored to meet the user’s specific requirements. This “model-driven” approach, in a graphical toolset, is intended to let users without sophisticated programming skills nevertheless create workable mobile applications.

The toolset also supports the Web Services Description Language (WSDL), which provides a common way to describe services and the format for requests to Web services. Studio applications have a built-in capability to discover and then connect with WSDL services.

Applications built with Studio run on a server, with an application framework and client code that run as native Windows or Java applications on a wide range of mobile devices equipped with the appropriate Antenna runtime code.

AT&T will make use of Studio to link field sales staff with the carrier’s Seybold CRM software. By summer 2007, these mobile users will be able to access, review and update customer account information, contacts and other Seybold-based data, according to Laura Johnson, senior director for AT&T’s wireless enterprise solutions group.

Studio will also let AT&T develop and deploy custom CRM, sales force automation, and other applications for business customers, according to Johnson. “People in the field want to quickly update activities and make changes to accounts right after a meeting with a customer, and see inventory and order status in real-time, rather than doing all this later from an office,” she says.

Antenna competes with an array of similar small fairly new companies such as Apresta, CounterMind, Dexterra, MobileAware and Syclo, as well as larger rivals such as Nokia (based on its Intellisync acquisition in 2006), IBM and Sybase.

AMP Studio is available now. Antenna executives would not give any pricing information, on either software option, the monthly subscription fee or the more traditional one-time site license. “Pricing depends upon overall size of the implementation,” the company says in a statement.

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