Mobile Computing: More Options

As the battle for mobile operating-system supremacy heats up, one vendor, AppForge, is giving technology executives the option to ignore the fight and focus on creating line-of-business programs.

In April, the Atlanta-based firm released the latest version of its core product, Crossfire, a software development platform that internal teams can use to build mobile applications capable of running on any operating system, including market leader Research in Motion’s BlackBerry system and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile.

AppForge’s latest offering, Crossfire 6.0, plugs into Microsoft’s Visual Studio development program with a BlackBerry user interface. It’s compatible with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server but also supports Palm, Windows Mobile and other operating systems.

Gary Warren, chief executive of AppForge, says the product meets the needs of enterprise technology executives, who are more concerned with creating line-of-business programs than they are with what device those applications run on.

At least one analyst, though, feels AppForge’s future lies in the consumer market. Ellen Daley, vice president and research director with Forrester Research, says that while AppForge is unique, it will become less relevant to technology executives as the number of operating systems continues to shrink. She says the consumer market, which isn’t expected to see as much operating-system consolidation, might be a better fit for Warren and company.

Warren disagrees, however, saying AppForge shifted its focus to corporate clients three years ago because the company was drawing low revenue on the consumer end.

Crossfire 6.0 is the company’s first BlackBerry-compatible product (previously, the platform linked up with Symbian, Palm’s proprietary system and earlier versions of Microsoft operating systems). But Warren doesn’t think AppForge is late to the party–he says 300 or so companies bought the product immediately–and he doesn’t put much stock in competitive chatter.

In April, research firm Gartner predicted that Microsoft, whose Windows Mobile operating system runs on the newest Palm Treos, will catch up to RIM by 2008. Last week, Baseline reported that IDC believes Windows Mobile will not make considerable gains on RIM’s market share until 2008, at the earliest.

But Warren says that instead of choosing sides, companies will stay focused on the entire enterprise market, regardless of whose operating system comes out on top.

Citibank, Thomson Healthcare and BASF are all AppForge customers.