Meap, Meap

MEAPAfter several runs of building native mobile apps for Android and iOS, I’m again using cross-platform (hybrid) solutions for those apps that don’t need heavy native capabilities. Mobile Enterprise App Platforms (MEAPs) based on Cordova are common, and a good place to start for corp-rat work.

IBM’s MEAP is Worklight (now called the MobileFirst Platform), and I’ve been running it through the paces. The Eclipse-based Studio is a free download from the Eclipse Marketplace, the online tutorials are quick, and the documentation is complete.

MobileFirst’s frameworks and structure are well-designed, helping keep as much apps code as possible in common JavaScript/HTML5/CSS, and pushing customization to platform-specific environments and device-specific skins. It has jQuery included, and convenience support for jQuery Mobile, Dojo, and Sencha Touch. But it’s possible to use just about any JavaScript framework. It provides good client-side (WL) support classes for JavaScript as well as native Android and iOS.

Server-side adapters can also be coded in JavaScript, with good libraries and tooling. I ran into a few adapter issues, such as exceptions using default data sources with z/OS DB2 connections, and namespace errors for SOAP adapters generated from WSDL. But these were easy enough to fix, and the benefits were worth the trouble.

The suite includes libraries and server apps for app management and updates, analytics, authentication, push notifications, and other “back end” responsibilities. It takes awhile to learn how to correctly package apps and then production-deploy everything, but I got by with help from the doc and StackOverflow.

Worklight is a mature product that’s continually being improved. And with IBM’s backing and focus, it’s a good choice for all your MEAPing.

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