Continuing changes affect the App Refactoring space (which I think we’re calling RMAD now)

StarMobile shuts down and HopTo loses some key people, but the App Refactoring (now RMAD) space seems to be going strong.

When I wrote last month that App Refactoring vendor Reddo Mobility had shut down, people approached me and noted that other changes were afoot as well. I let it play out a bit, but in the intervening weeks we’ve seen that StarMobile has also closed down and is currently in the process of transitioning clients and selling their IP. HopTo, which doesn’t really belong to the App Refactoring space but doesn’t appear to belong to a more appropriate bucket, has also had some key people leave the company, though they are still afloat.

For StarMobile, the message was always a strong one, but where the other vendors are more than happy to show off their technology, few people I’ve spoken to saw more than a PowerPoint showing what StarMobile could do. There must have been something there, though, because they had partnerships with HPi and investment interest from many companies in the desktop virtualization space. Ultimately, it came down to an issue of timing, and they just ran out of steam.

With the loss of Reddo and StarMobile, there are now three players in the space that has come to be known as App Refactoring: HopTo, PowWow, and Capriza.

HopTo, though going through some changes, is still pushing forward with their Mobile App eXperience platform. Originally based on RDP, they announced Project Mobilis at Citrix Summit that brought the platform to HDX. We expected to see a release date around Citrix Synergy–HopTo was even showing it at the show–but since then we haven’t heard anything else. It looked like a complete product at the time, so we’re left wondering why it hasn’t been released.

PowWow, under the leadership of new CEO Kia Behnia, is actually experiencing a period of growth amid these changes. They’ve leveraged a growing customer base to secure more funding and hire more employees, including doubling their sales force. They focus on Windows applications, transforming their desktop interface into a mobile one via a drag and drop interface that requires little to no code. When you do need to work with code, you don’t have to know how to program for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone OS. They’ve got a javascript interface that allows you to easily write bits of code to integrate the application with mobile-specific features like barcode scanning or geofencing.

Capriza is also moving right along with their platform that’s focused entirely on web applications. They recently announced that they’ve secured $23M in Series C funding, which is remarkable given how hard it has been for other companies to raise funds these days. They have 500k users on their platform, which has been tripling year over year. Primarily, they’re focused on mobilizing super-customized web apps that were intended for desktop form factors. Apps like SAP, which are different in every organization, are prime candidates because you can pull out only the workflows that matter to mobile users. I have a more comprehensive article in the works for them, but until then I’ll just say that I really like what they’re doing.

We need a new name

Without exception, the vendors in this space have a strong dislike of the term “App Refactoring,” which is what I’ve been calling it for years. I think I got the term from Gartner, but who really knows at this point. I definitely heard it from someone else!

In my mind, it made sense as a shortened version of the phrase App Re-form-factoring, since we’re now changing the interface of the application to be more appropriate for different form factors of devices. That’s pretty weak, though, because refactoring is already a thing. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what we’re talking about. Code refactoring is about changing the underlying code without changing the external behavior (thanks Wikipedia!).

So we need a new name. Some have already begun to lump in these companies into the RMAD category. If you’re new to the term, RMAD stands for Rapid Mobile App Development. I feel like that’s just as bad of a term as anything else because the entire goal of the companies that I’ve written about here is to make existing apps work on mobile devices with little to no development. RMAD platforms are typically about starting from scratch and pulling together various systems to create apps that address specific workflows.

Nevertheless, there are some similarities. The goal is to create canned workflows, and by using one of these companies you’re just using Windows or web apps as the backend instead of an MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service). So maybe these are RMADs? At the very least, it’s a subset of RMAD, so I think that’s what we’re going to call it now. Well…until the RMAD people get mad that we’re camping out on their turf.

Wrap up

Though I recently speculated that App Refactoring…uh…RMAD…uh…“The niche of RMAD that was formerly called App Refactoring” might be fading away, there are still a handful of companies doing some really cool things. I still think that these fit really well into the any-any-any message from Citrix and VMware, but both companies have been circling the wagons lately. Given the timing I’d also imagine that the shutdown of Citrix Labs, which might have had a hand in vetting out this kind of technology, didn’t help.

The good news is that HopTo, PowWow, and Capriza are still moving along. This could just be the cream rising to the top, which is exciting because it means we can focus on a specific direction now as opposed to wondering which approach is the best. Plus, each of these companies are different enough that they don't necessarily compete with each other:

  • If you want to do Windows apps and workflows in a completely new way, you’re looking at PowWow.
  • If you want to do web apps and workflows, you have Capriza.
  • If you just want your Windows apps to work in a more mobile-friendly way while keeping the same basic UI, you have HopTo.

So, we'll see what happens. Stay tuned for a more in-depth article on Capriza.

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