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Create Mobile Applications with IBM Forms for Mobile Devices

The power of Web forms has brought no-code solutions to data management applications. Find out how a new preview technology from IBM alphaWorks helps you extend data management apps into the mobile arena.

he combination of a database, Web server, browser, and scripting language is a powerful one when it comes to application development. Increasingly, this can be done without code; unfortunately, to date these types of tools have been challenged when reaching pervasive mobile devices because they lack continuous network coverage. IBM alphaWorks' IBM Forms for Mobile Devices brings the same power to mobile devices with intermittent network access by replacing the browser with a Java MIDP application that reads forms defined using the XForms standard, and enables you to create custom applications without writing any code.

The IBM Forms for Mobile Devices solution is a preview technology from IBM alphaWorks. It permits mobile Java-enabled devices, such as the Palm Computing Tungsten series, to access forms provided by a remote server via a local cache. It stores the results entered into the forms until they regain access to the network. The forms themselves are developed using a set of wizards in Eclipse. These forms are represented as XForms documents presented to the mobile devices, bringing the power of an open standard to bear on the problem of disseminating mobile forms. The overall architecture leverages the model-view-controller pattern, using XForms and the notion of a form instance as the form's model.

Author's Note: Click here for a review of the MVC architecture, or see my previous article "Build Better Mobile UIs with a New BREW Framework."

This alphaWorks offering is just as exciting for what it offers—an easy route to mobile data collection with little or no custom code for WebSphere users—as what it demonstrates. The level of integration and convenience achieved by alphaWorks’ researchers comes through their application of well-understood, public concepts like the MVC and XForms. This trend parallels the existing trend in Web application development and promises to relieve many mobile developers of the burden to generate tedious custom applications for data collection.

Installation is straightforward, although the requirements can be daunting at first. On the server side, IBM Forms requires running an IBM WebSphere application server, along with a back-end IBM DB2 database to store the forms. The handheld client must be running a JVM; IBM suggests their WebSphere Micro Environment, a CLDC 1.1/MIDP 2.0 compliant implementation which runs on devices such as the Palm Tungsten C. Trials of all of these are available from alphaWorks.

Developing forms past the sample application requires the Eclipse SDK, a Java-based IDE. The IBM Forms for Mobile devices includes a set of wizards that integrate with Eclipse, making it easy to create your own forms.

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