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Breaking down IBM's MobileFirst Platform Foundation

IBM MobileFirst Platform Foundation provides several mobile app development tools for building native and cross-platform mobile apps using familiar development technologies.

MobileFirst Platform Foundation from IBM (formerly known as IBM Worklight) is a mobile app development platform best suited for the creation of enterprise-level native and cross-platform apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows devices. The platform also features mobile app development tools that aid application lifecycle management, which range from app creation through app distribution. The most recent version of the software is 7.1.

Powering MobileFirst Platform Foundation's app development capability is MobileFirst Studio, an Eclipse-based development environment. Studio is used to develop client-side apps with the use of additional IBM and third-party plug-ins, widgets and development frameworks, all of which ultimately make possible native and cross-platform app development in the platform. These tools also include popular and widely used Apache Cordova plug-ins; however the Apache Cordova tools can be used only in MobileFirst Platform's command line interface. Studio is also available as a plug-in for Eclipse.

To further augment cross-platform app development, MobileFirst Platform Foundation provides developers with a number of APIs that let them use Studio to build apps for multiple devices using a single codebase. These APIs, in conjunction with the platform's plug-ins, widgets and frameworks, transform the Java-oriented Eclipse IDE into an environment that lets developers build cross-platform apps using CSS3, HTML5 and JavaScript, as well as native apps using C# (Windows devices), Java (Android devices) and Objective-C (IOS devices). APIs are available in the platform for both client-side and server-side development.

By leveraging these APIs, developers can build their apps without worrying about whether the apps' custom features and appearance will translate across different mobile operating systems. Also, developers are ensured that cross-platform apps will execute with native appearance and functionality on their intended device. Using a single codebase for cross-platform app development helps developers cut down on build and implementation timelines and lets them focus their efforts on building the best application possible without worrying about replicating the application multiple times. The combined use of APIs and a single codebase translates to faster publication to places such as the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, as well as faster deployment to employees in the case of enterprise apps.

In addition to Studio and Server, MobileFirst Platform Foundation offers several other tools that aid in the development process. MobileFirst Console is an administrative GUI that provides developers with real-time application analytics. It also provides push notification services to aid in app management and monitoring. MobileFirst Application Center lets developers establish an enterprise app store for handling the distribution of created apps. MobileFirst Device Runtime Components provides developers with APIs for governance, security and usability. MobileFirst Server is middleware used for the modification of server-side processes that affect communication between apps and associated back-end systems.

MobileFirst Platform Foundation is available for use on AIX, Linux, Mac, Solaris and Windows operating systems. It is suited for use by individual developers as well as larger development teams. Several editions of the platform are available: MobileFirst Platform Foundation Developer Edition, MobileFirst Platform Foundation, MobileFirst Foundation System Pattern, MobileFirst Platform Foundation Consumer and MobileFirst Platform Foundation Enterprise. A basic breakdown of each edition's offering can be found in the IBM Knowledge Center.

The platform's Developer Edition is available as a no-cost download from IBM's website. Pricing for the other editions of MobileFirst Platform is available by contacting IBM. Support contracts also are available and should be discussed with IBM. Free online support forums for the platform are available.

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