New HTML5 control blends Web with native mobile apps

A new HTML5 Browser Control lets enterprise mobile app developers quickly blend dynamic Web content with native and hybrid apps, using the cross-platform tools and middleware from Verivo Software.

With the new component, which is part of Verivo's AppStudio toolset, Web developers can use their HTML and Javascript skills to build mobile apps that can access a range of back-end enterprise databases and apps. And the Browser Control lets existing HTML5 content be quickly incorporated into mobile apps, alongside native app components.

BACKGROUND: Four reasons to jump to HTML5

A recent survey of enterprise software coders found higher-than-expected interest in HTML5 for mobile apps. [See "Interest in HTML5 growing among mobile developers"] Seventy-nine percent of nearly 2,200 mobile developers in the study said they will use HTML5 in their apps in 2012, a big jump compare to an earlier survey in late 2011.

Verivo's introduction of its new Browser Control, and its roadmap for future HTML5 features, is part of a trend by application tools vendors to use the emerging HTML5 standards in building and deploying mobile applications. These applications can run inside a HTML5 browser or be wrapped as part of a native application, to display Web content.

Rivals such as SAP's Sybase Unwired Platform, Antenna Software, Appcelerator, Appsbar and many others, offer competing services but there are wide differences in their approach, architecture and capabilities.

Mozilla.org, creator of the Firefox Web browser, has even greater ambitions for HTML5: making it the basis for eliminating conventional mobile operating systems, and instead replacing them with a very small Linux kernel and drivers, to support Mozilla's Gecko rendering engine. Coupled with a growing array of new APIs, and a user interface dubbed Gaia, the platform can fully control the phone and its features without the complexity of a conventional OS. [See: "Mozilla's 'modest proposal:' Dump the smartphone OS"]

The Verivo package has three parts. AppStudio is a drag-and-drop designer for laying out a mobile app. The app is stored as an XML configuration file on the Verivo Server, which is a middleware server that supports interfaces to back-end databases and applications as well as a variety of optimization services such as user authentication and data compression. Finally, the Verivo Client, on Android, iOS or BlackBerry OS, logs into the server and authenticates, and then the appropriate app configuration file for that mobile OS is downloaded to the client and instantiated.

In a demo of Verivo's existing native app capabilities, a change made in AppStudio to the central XML configuration file for a mobile CRM application was almost at once reflected in the corresponding app running on simulators for a Samsung Android phone, an iPhone and a BlackBerry smartphone.

Verivo's Browser Control works with the embedded Web control offered by each mobile OS's software development kit: This Web control, with an embedded rendering engine, lets a native app access and display Web content without resorting to the separate full Web browser. Verivo wraps that Web control with a rich set of HTML5 interactive features.

In a demo of the new component, for an app running on an iPad simulator, the same CRM app was displayed initially, showing a static chart of sales analytics data. Using AppStudio, Mark Rosenbaum, Verivo's director of sales engineering, quickly made changes in a couple of menu selections that redirected the mobile app from the static chart to a highly interactive HTML5 chart, created by a third-party charting app and hosted on a Web server. After logging back into the original iPad CRM app, Rosenbaum now saw the dynamic Web chart: He was able to adjust data variables and see chart trends change in response, and drill down for more detailed information.

The chart, when updated automatically or manually on the server, would display the most current data whenever users subsequently worked with the app.

Later this year, Verivo will update the new Browser Control to expand integration between HTML5 and native components; release a Web Client to run Verivo-designed and -built apps fully in any HTML5 browser; and a Javascript API that can be used by any Verivo-built app or HTML5 content to tie into such Verivo Server features as authentication and back-end system interfaces.

Verivo's software is priced on a per-CPU basis for the Verivo server, with separate developer licenses for staff using AppStudio to create apps. Companies can distribute as many clients and apps as they want, for example. You add servers, and server licenses, as the number of clients increase. Pricing starts at about $80,000, which includes servers for development and testing as well as production. The new HTML5 Browser Control is included at no charge with AppStudio.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: @johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.comBlog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

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This story, "New HTML5 control blends Web with native mobile apps" was originally published by Network World.

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