Mobile App Development for Less

 
 
By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2001-11-12
 
 
 

Mobile App Development for Less


Intava Corp.s Gravity 1.0, a graphical mobile Web development tool, enables companies to target multiple device platforms without investing in costly transcoding server software.

In eWeek Labs tests of Gravity, which shipped last month, we could drag and drop our way to mobile Web pages, from which Gravity would generate Palm Inc. and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) 1.1 device-optimized versions of the pages we created.

In this capability, Gravity bore a resemblance to iConverse Inc.s Mobile Studio 2.0, reviewed last spring. (eWeek Labs May 6 review of a late beta of iConverse 2.0 is at www.eweek.com/links.) However, as a server-based transcoding system, Mobile Studio cost $100,000 and required a separate Java application server.

Gravity, priced at $695 for a multiplatform version or $495 for a Palm-only or WAP-only version, presents a much lower point of entry and will enable companies or departments that cant invest heavily in wireless to begin serving static Web content and collecting basic data over mobile devices. For more complex, database-centered Web applications, companies should look to a server-based product such as Mobile Studio 2.0 or ThinAirApps Inc.s Identicon DB.

Gravity produces WML (Wireless Markup Language) pages optimized for Nokia Corp. or Openwave Systems Inc. WAP browsers, as well as PQAs (Palm query applications) for Palm devices.

Although developers can build WAP and PQA projects with a text editor and freely available software development kits from device vendors, Gravity keeps page versions organized and reduces the need for hard coding.

Intava plans to support Pocket PC devices in a future release, and wed like to see support for Research In Motion Ltd. devices as well.

Viewing a Project


Viewing a Project

The Gravity interface is anchored by a project explorer pane, in which we could view the pages and images that constituted our project, and a tools explorer pane, from which we could drag and drop page elements such as tables, links and scripts.

We did our work in an editing window, split into WYSIWYG and HTML coding panes. Changes we made in the WYSIWYG pane were duplicated in separate WAP and Palm OS pages (see screen).

We could view the results of our changes as we worked in any of 28 different Palm OS and WAP device emulators.

Gravity automatically adapted our pages for their mobile device targets. Our tables were rendered as lists for some of the WAP devices and standard tables for the Palm OS units, and Gravity converted images to appropriate formats for each device.

Working with such small displays, these adaptations cause fewer problems than they would with full-size Web content or applications.

With all these windows, we quickly found that screen space was at a premium, and wed like to see better use of right-click menus for operations such as editing page element properties.

We could drop scripts into our pages to send form data to our server or to connect pages to a back-end database.

After creating our pages, we could publish them to a Web server using an FTP facility within Gravity.

Because Gravity is not a server-based product, developers must write redirect scripts to send browsers to the page sets appropriate for their devices. Gravity does not generate these scripts itself, but the product ships with sample redirect scripts to help developers.

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

Gravity 1


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Gravity 1.0

USABILITYB
CAPABILITYB
PERFORMANCEB
INTEROPERABILITYB
MANAGEABILITYB

Intavas Gravity 1.0 enables developers to create mobile Web pages for WAP- and Palm OS-based devices at the same time and can apply future changes to these separate pages simultaneously.

SHORT-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Gravity does not require a large initial investment, so companies can begin mobilizing their Web operations with relatively little risk.

LONG-TERM BUSINESS IMPACT // Provided that Intava supports them, future device coverage will not require Gravity users to rewrite their pages.

PROS: ISimple interface; supports WAP and Palm OS devices simultaneously; low cost.

CONS: No Pocket PC or RIM device support.

Intava Corp., Bellevue, Wash.; (425) 646-5900; www.intava.com

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