iAnywhere upgrades sales app, offers Wi-Fi kit

iAnywhere Solutions Inc. released an upgrade to its mobile sales application Monday, along with a developer kit offered in conjunction with Intel Corp. for small- and medium-sized companies looking to build and test Wi-Fi applications.

iAnywhere, a subsidiary of Sybase Inc., makes a popular database for use on handleld computers, laptops and PCs, as well as a variety of mobile business applications. Its competitors in the "mobile middleware" market include Oracle Corp., IBM Corp. and Microsoft Corp.

Its announcements were made in conjunction with the CTIA Wireless IT and Entertainment conference, which kicks off Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Version 2.3 of iAnywhere Mobile Sales, available Monday, offers enhancements intended to encourage sales workers in the field to make more use of an organization's CRM (customer relationship management) software. Specifically, the product has been tweaked to let developers configure the user interface before deployment so it better matches an organization's sales process.

For example, before making a sales call, pharmaceutical sales representatives often check a system from IMS Health Inc. that shows them a doctor's prescribing history. They might also check their CRM system for a history of what happened on previous customer visits, said Lubos Parobek, senior product manager at iAnywhere, in Dublin, California.

The upgrade lets a developer define those steps up front and present the screens to a sales representative in the order they need to be accessed. Until now, iAnywhere has worked with customers to customize the application after deployment, which is more costly and time consuming.

The goal is to encourage sales representatives to make more use of the application, which they'll be reluctant to do if it doesn't help them do their job more efficiently, said Warren Wilson, a practice director with Boston-based analyst company Summit Strategies Inc.

"They're really attacking some of the fundamentals that affect adoption of these applications. If you have a clumsy interface people won't use it and the investment goes to waste," he said.

Addressing concerns about how much return companies get from their CRM investments, the upgrade also lets managers track how often the sales application gets used. Developers can build a browser-based "dashboard" for managers to track key performance indicators like how many transactions have been submitted, Parobek said.

That's also a plus, Wilson said. "If you can't collect or capture usage information you're missing a key value of the application," he said.

iAnywhere Mobile Sales Version 2.3 is a free upgrade for existing customers. For new customers, the price is about US$200,000 for a typical 200-user deployment, an iAnywhere spokesman said.

In addition, iAnywhere and Intel launched a developer kit Monday that includes developer licenses to iAnywhere's database and other software components, along with a notebook and a handheld computer from Hewlett-Packard Co., both of which have embedded Wi-Fi chips from Intel, and a W-Fi access point made by Cisco Systems Inc.

Priced at about $3,500, the kit is aimed at small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) that want to develop applications that can be accessed over Wi-Fi networks.

"SMBs require the same mobile access as larger companies but they don't have access to the same IT resources or funds to create these custom solutions. This toolkit provides them with everything they need to get started," said Jan Jaworsky, iAnywhere senior director of marketing.

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