A flood of new applications can be expected on mobile devices like Palm, Pocket PC and Symbian phones and PDAs, as Visual Basic programmers get easier access to these platforms, through AppForge licensing changes.
In the past, AppForge's MobileVB developer package was pretty restricted in what it covered. With the release of version 4.0 of MobileVB, however, people can use Microsoft's developer platform, Visual Studio, and re-distribute end-user code onto handhelds, without having to charge for an extra runtime licence for each user.
Version 4.0 of AppForge's MobileVB adds support for Palm OS 5 and Nokia Series 60 devices including Palm Tungsten, Sony Clie, Nokia 3650, 7650 and Nokia 6600.
The change is probably not going to flood the shelves of stores with new shrink-wrapped products, however; Visual Basic is, largely, the tool of in-house developers for large corporations, and not necessarily ideal for geeks trying to write cool code, or for independent software vendors trying to optimise applications for retail sale.
Where Appforge's new product comes into its own, is in taking a standard corporate code enhancement to an in-house software system, and spreading it onto other platforms.
"Our clients are increasingly demanding a single wireless infrastructure for their entire business that will support multiple devices and perform many different tasks," said Simon Cavill, Lead Architect at Logica CMG. "The AppForge development suite is a key part of our strategy as it enables us to rapidly build and deploy cross-platform mobile applications using standard development tools and the knowledge we have in-house."
However, there may be some unexpected breakthroughs, think the directors of AppForge. "We expect to see a significant number of new MobileVB developers who wish to quickly create applications for the Tungsten line of devices from palmOne as well as all the other great Palm OS 5 devices on the market," said Gary Warren, CEO .
He predicted that current MobileVB developers should expect to have their existing MobileVB applications running under Palm OS 5, for example, "in a matter of hours."
In the past AppForge primarily supported devices from manufacturers with whom they had a licence agreement. Also, developers or their end users had to purchase a per-device runtime package called Booster in order to run AppForge applications on devices for which they did not have a runtime license agreement.
Now the developer tools will support all popular mobile and wireless devices. AppForge is also distributing all standard Boosters free of charge.
Enthusiasm from PalmSource: "AppForge MobileVB works with Palm OS 5 to interoperate with existing business technologies and leverage IT investment in developer tools and skills," said Charlie Tritschler, vice president of product marketing, PalmSource. "This solution is designed to further advance the Palm OS platform in the enterprise market by enabling the development and deployment of robust mobile solutions for Palm Powered devices."
Similar support for the announcement from Symbian: "We are very pleased that AppForge will be supporting Series 60 devices," said David Wood, EVP partnering, Symbian.
The suggested retail price of AppForge's MobileVB 4.0 version is US $899.
The product will be available in October 2003. Customers who purchase MobileVB between September 1 and the release of MobileVB 4.0 will receive a free upgrade to 4.0.
All other registered users of MobileVB can upgrade for US $249. Additional information about pricing, upgrades and support policies is available on the AppForge Web site at www.appforge.com.
After the release of MobileVB 4.0, the AppForge Booster for Series 60 can be downloaded free.
Developers also have the option of bundling Booster with their applications or providing links and/or download files from their own websites as well.