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Antenna looks to tame mobile's 'Old West'

Developing for mobile devices, according to Peter Semmelhack, president of Antenna Software (www.antennasoftware.com), is still a bit like the Old West: Lots of gunslingers riding the range and very few standards for them to conform to.

"You really have no operating model that makes development any easier for the network side. There's no Novell, if you will, in the network space," explained Semmelhack. "Back in the 80's, if you had to write a piece of software that would communicate with multiple different printers, you'd actually have to write the drivers yourself. Novell stepped in and allowed that to be abstracted. There's no such animal right now in the wireless space for networks."

Founded in 1998, when mobile development was largely the domain of big, established companies, Antenna Software has seen the playing field tilt in recent years as more companies try to jump on the mobile bandwagon. But unlike many start-ups focusing on providing a mobile deployment platform, Antenna has gone with an application-based approach, dubbed Antenna A3 (www.antennasoftware.com/products/products.asp), which Semmelhack said is compatible with a variety of field devices and capable of integrating with different networks, carriers and CRM systems. Semmelhack describes the offering as "an out-of-the-box application that specifically addresses the needs of field service organizations."

Semmelhack maintains that his firm's approach fits in well with the open-ended nature of mobile development, especially for those companies with doubts about committing to a platform-based approach.

"What Antenna has been able to do is put together a product that tries to take advantage of the flexibility of the environment by offering customers the ability to choose the devices they want, choose the networks they want, and to go after different content on the back end in a kind of mix-and-match metaphor," he said.

It's a wave that's still growing, Semmelhack noted, but one that's already produced an interesting shift on the customer side.

"The early adopters, the folks who are comfortable sitting on the front edge of a technology trend, are the ones that are buying today," said Semmelhack. "And the buying decisions are coming as much from the IT people as the business users."

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