One way to build mobile-friendly apps for all devices

Adam Blum's 12-person company will attempt to help enterprises both mobilize their existing applications and build new native mobile applications from scratch that work across multiple mobile platforms

Adam Blum, CEO of startup Rhomobile, says 90% of the programs being written with his company's open source mobile application framework are by ISVs and the other 10% by enterprises, but over time he'd like to see those percentages reversed.

"Enterprises build an awful lot of custom applications and tend to rely on them for a long time," he said.

Blum's 12-person company will attempt to help enterprises both mobilize their existing applications and build new native mobile applications from scratch that work across multiple mobile platforms such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and Symbian (and Palm Pre and LiMo are lurking).

"I've yet to see an organization standardize on a mobile device and see it take effect," said Blum, former VP of engineering at Good Technology, where he saw the company's 200-person engineering team constantly challenged to support their messaging product on three operating systems. "Heterogeneity is only going to become more widespread over the next several years."

(Read more from Blum and other execs who took part on an Interop panel about iPhones in the enterprise)

The Cupertino, Calif., company's Rhodes framework , which debuted in March, exploits Ruby on Rails and HTML technologies familiar to many developers. Other offerings from Rhomobile, which started last year with $1 million in funding from vSpring Capital, include a synchronization server and a hosted development service that entered public beta this week.

Applications that Blum envisions enterprises using Rhodes to build could include things like vehicle fleet tracking and asset tracking. One early adopter has designs on rolling out an application to thousands of claims adjusters using mobile devices. Blum, who started his first company as a teenager, emphasizes that Rhomobile is all about native mobile apps that can really exploit a phone's technologies, such as a GPS and cameras.

Enterprises building apps with Rhodes pay a per-user per-year fee. Those putting their applications into the open source realm don't need to pay and developers commercializing their applications pay 5% of revenue to Rhomobile. A handful of apps have already shown up on Apple's iPhone AppStore and Rhomobile lists applications built with Rhodes on its site as well, including a BMC Remedy helpdesk-related mobile application.

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Bob Brown

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