April 17, 2013

Verivo Software Delivers on Enterprise Mobile App Development, HTML5

Verivo Software is one of those "old timey" pioneers of the mobile enterprise apps space with a new HTML5 twist – a company dating back to the early years of BlackBerry (News Alert) and BlackBerry’s deep penetration and near pervasive use within financial institutions. Back then it was "the" mobile toy that mattered, and Verivo (known as Pyxis Mobile back then), even delivered professional stock trading applications apps built to run on old Research in Motion (News Alert) Pearl smartphones.

We ourselves started covering the company in 2003, and Verivo was already a veteran by then.

But don’t let "old timey" fool you. Today, the firm has rolled with the modern mobile times we live in, and though never letting go of its BlackBerry heritage, has smoothly moved into a predominantly iOS and Android (NewsAlert) world. The company has primarily focused over the last five years on delivering "native" applications built around its Verivo Software enterprise mobility platform, and has long stayed true to its belief that native mobile apps always deliver the only kinds of end user experiences that keep users satisfied.

There’s more to it than that however – along with keeping users happy, Verivo’s goal has also always been to keep developers and enterprise IT happy – by ensuring that Verivo delivers a true "write once, deploy to many" framework and architecture. One code base can be quickly prototyped, tested, developed and created that can in turn be deployed directly to iOS, Android and…yes, BlackBerry (at least prior to BlackBerry 10). 

And because it is that old timey company, Verivo has always ensured that today’s platforms remain compatible with older versions that long time customers may still be running.

Once deployed, Verivo-built mobile applications are easy to manage. What we mean by "managed," here, is in a developer’s ability to modify, tweak and make other changes to apps based on field feedback, feature additions and/or changes to currently deployed apps. The ability to quickly drive updates and then quickly redeploy is critical for delivering the most effective applications possible.

Verivo’s platform does this, and we’ve spoken to enough Verivo customers over the last several years to know the platform delivers.

We will note here that Verivo doesn’t simply fit itself into some predefined category. There are always attempts to squeeze vendors into "categories" – is Verivo a MEAP (mobile enterprise application platform)? An MCAP (mobile consumer application platform)? Something else? Why waste one’s time categorizing? The truth is that Verivo will deliver whatever mobile apps an application requires – whether they are internal, B2B or B2C.

Finally, Verivo looks to put the power into the hands of its customers’ developers. Though the company has a professional services team, its key goal is not to "build the apps" but to help customers get out the door and master the mobile learning curve. Verivo’s goal is to get out of the way of what the customer needs to do.

In a sense, Verivo is successful when the mobile app students become the masters. It is a model that has worked well for the company for more than half a decade.

HTML5 on the Rise

All of that said, we’ve been asking Verivo for some time now when it would seriously begin to get on the HTML5 bandwagon – by which we mean not as a wholesale shift in how its platform works, but rather in providing HTML5 capabilities to its customers as another developer option. The truth of the matter is that HTML5 is now good enough to lead the charge on any number of mobile apps. We’ve never been satisfied with Verivo’s answer on this front – primarily that HTML5 was not good enough to match native app performance.

To get a more conclusive answer from Verivo, a number of weeks ago we sat down with CEO Steven Levy to get to the bottom of what we’ve thought of as Verivo’s HTML5 conundrum. It didn’t take Steven long to get to the issue – in fact he raised it himself a mere five minutes into our conversation as a "now legitimate disruptor" for enterprise mobile app planning.

Steven pointed out that the company certainly had good revenue generation in 2012, which he pegged at 35 percent over 2011. And the company gained an excellent 20 percent increase in its customer base. That said, Steven also noted that, "There was a substantial shift in the enterprise market in 2012 revolving around two key points – a huge increase in iOS development for enterprise business apps and a much greater interest in HTML5 than we had anticipated would be the case in 2012." Steven noted that the latter issue in particular has become an issue that Verivo now needs to significantly step up its game on.

One of the issues that center on HTML5 is a perhaps false impression that an enterprise can simply leverage some HTML5 tools and simply put their own in-house HTML developers to work. As part of this Steven adds, "The desire by enterprises to embrace HTML5 caused many businesses to take a step back in 2012 to review their options rather than moving forward with using mobile development platforms such as Verivo’s."

Steven does note that the notion of what a modern mobile development platform is needs to evolve to some degree.

Having come to this point in our conversation, Steven made it clear that Verivo is moving quickly in 2013 to deliver the HTML5 platform capabilities that are now being demanded by enterprises. He did note that it’s not only about HTML5. And he underlines that native development is still critical. There are many other things, some of them more subtle and some more overt – such as marketing strategies – that Verivo will be undertaking throughout 2013 to meet the growing and evolving mobile development needs of the enterprise.

Steven also notes that the mobile development platform – though evolving to some degree, as noted earlier, remains the key piece of Verivo’s offering. One of the things Steven makes clear is that, "Mobile development in the enterprise in now mainstream. There is a premium today on hiring mobile developers, but there is a problem. Everyone wants to hire them, but it is a world of limited supply and high demand there simply aren’t enough of them – the way to offset this is to effectively use a robust mobile platform. That platform needs to deliver not only HTML5 capability but that native mobile OS performance we’re already well known for. And yes, Windows Phone (NewsAlert) 8 and Windows 8 will also become important to Verivo’s efforts."

Steven did assure us that Verivo has a good deal up its sleeve on these fronts that is still off the record. We’re looking forward to taking a trip up to their offices, signing an NDA and getting a behind the scenes look at what some of these things are. We are also very interested in checking out the new Verivo fire pit they had installed on the grounds of their new offices! But that’s another story. We’ve also been told of a wine bar.

Our conversation then hit on the biggest challenge that Verivo faces – which, predictably, falls under having to disavow enterprises of the DYI mentality – their desire to do it themselves. Steven alluded to this earlier when he spoke about enterprises possible viewing HTML5 as a DYI panacea. DYI delivers on the "build" but fails to take into account all of the subtleties of "deploy and manage." The latter two are in fact much more critical to rapid mobile development than the build component. We fully concur with that perspective.

Verivo v7.5 with HTML5 Support

Following our conversation, on March 26, 2013 Verivo publically uncovered a bit more on what it is working on when it announced Release 7.5 of the Verivo enterprise mobility platform – which now sports a Hybrid Browser Control for iOS and Android. This delivers increased flexibility to developers for designing mobile apps using both native and HTML5 content, which allows for the creation of true hybrid apps.

Developers can now access device features including camera, accelerometer, compass and geo-location by using Cordova’s JavaScript APIs to create more interactive and device accessible apps. HTML5 developers also gain access to Verivo’s new JavaScript APIs, which allows mobile apps to easily read and write from back-end data sources securely via Verivo’s platform server. The Hybrid Browser Control enables users to:

  • Build rich, visual presentation elements to be added to native apps using existing HTML5 Web content, accessing back-end data.
  • Access native device features and events within HTML5 Web content to allow users to use common features such as contacts, notifications, media, capture and GPS.
  • Add more complex operations into mobile apps including charts, graphs, navigation and drill-down menus into native apps by leveraging backend data in HTML5 Web content.

It’s good to see Verivo step up its game. The Hybrid Browser Control is a small but excellent first step from our perspective for moving forward on HTML5, and also from our perspective – which as we noted earlier on we’ve mentioned to Verivo dating back to the second half of 2011 – it is something the company needed to deliver on.

It’s worth noting that Verivo’s website is loaded with very useful videos and an excellent video-based walk through of its "build, deploy, manage" mantra – too many DYI IT and enterprise developer mindsets miss the critical pieces of deploy and manage – it’s well worth investigating.

That leaves us looking forward to a trip up to the Verivo offices, scoping out the fire pit, checking out the wine bar, and then signing that NDA.

Edited by Braden Becker


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