Rhodes unifies smartphone app dev

Using HTML and Ruby, developers can build for systems including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Android

In a move to unify software development for mobile systems, Rhomobile will launch on Tuesday version 1.0 of Rhodes, an open source framework to build applications for major smartphone operating systems.

With Rhomobile's Rhodes 1.0, developers can write applications once using HTML and the system builds native applications for smartphones including iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Android. Development for Android is new in the 1.0 version. Also featured is camera support. The announcement follows by two weeks an Eclipse Foundation open source effort called Pulsar, also intended to cope with the issue of developers having to deal with multiple software development platforms when building mobile applications.

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Available at the Rhomobile Web site, the Rhodes 1.0 framework reduces development times by using HTML instead of diverse native operating system languages for devices, Rhodes said. Developers can access such smartphone capabilities as GPS, PIM, data, and camera. Mobile applications also can interact with hosted enterprise applications, such as CRM and ERP, and users can work offline with synchronized local data.

"You're building native applications that run locally on the device and take advantage of the device capability," such as GPS, said Adam Blum, CEO at Rhomobile.

Commenting on the similar Pulsar initiative, Blum said his impression was that the Pulsar effort was like an IDE toolkit. Rhomobile, meanwhile, offers a native executable for smartphones, leveraging Ruby and HTML, he said. "You write your application once in a combination of HTML and Ruby, and [with] that same application, you do a build for each OS: iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android, Symbian, and BlackBerry," Blum said. Rhodes also leverages the Model View Controller development concept, he said.

"We think our sweet spot is enterprise applications especially because we have this synchronized local data capability," Blum said.

A user of Rhodes, Michael Morris, CEO of developer Carry the Day, said his company has used it to build an application to geo-code photographs via GPS, and another to link to SugarCRM data. The product lets developers leverage Web development skills in building mobile device applications and makes it easier to build for multiple platforms, Morris explained.

"Normally, what you have to do is you have to develop using the native APIs and native frameworks and each language and framework, they could be completely different" from phone to phone, Morris said. Rhodes gets around this problem, he stressed.

"The ability to connect to back-end servers is another key component that makes this offering compelling," Morris said. Data synchronization is enabled, he said.

Rhodes is offered under dual licensing, with GPLv3 available for open source applications and commercial licensing used for enterprises and ISVs.

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