Comments on Web Experience Factory, WebSphere Portlet Factory, and the new mobile features
I'm writing this blog shortly before the planned release of Web Experience Factory, which is the new name of WebSphere Portlet Factory. I've been architect of this product since back at Bowstreet in the years before we were acquired by IBM, and I thought I'd share a few thoughts about where we're at now with the product, especially as it relates to the area of mobile web application development.
When the whole smartphone and smart device market really exploded last year, we realized that the model-driven code generation and profiling technology of Portlet Factory was uniquely suited for mobile and multi-channel web application development. So for this release of Web Experience Factory the team worked hard to put together a set of key tools - builders, themes, profiling support, etc. - to support mobile web application development. Recently I've spent quite a bit of time demoing these features to customers, and I have to say that it's been really fun. People really respond well when they see two key capabilities: first, how quickly you can build great-looking mobile applications, drawing on all the existing rapid development features of Portlet Factory; and second, how you can use profiling to generate multiple renderings for different device types (smartphone, tablet, desktop, etc.) from a single model. I suspect that the multi-channel aspect is hitting home with developers because it helps address the scary prospect of supporting the myriad of new smart devices that are coming out.
I won't go into all the details of Web Experience Factory's mobile and multi-channel support here, but if you haven't checked it out yet, the following page on our wiki has links to slides, articles, and downloads to get you started: http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/pfwiki.nsf/dx/Smart_Phone_and_Mobile_Device_Development
So I'm very excited about the unique value that our technology offers at this particular point in time, and I'm hoping that it will expand the community of developers using the tool. If you've used Portlet Factory, hopefully you've experienced the benefits of things like model-based development, high-level automation using builders, and the ability of dynamic profiling to generate multiple application variations from a single source model. Now we're seeing that in the mobile web application arena, these technologies are even more compelling. For example, in the new product, check out the way you can:
- Apply a Data Layout builder and a Theme to a model to cause a conventional-looking desktop UI to "morph" into a nice looking mobile-optimized UI.
- Use profiling to turn on and off different layouts and themes based on client device, so that a single model renders differently for each device type.
Going forward after this release, we'll continue to expand the tools that we provide for mobile and multi-channel support. We'll be posting samples and code you can learn from and use. We'll post supplementary material such as articles and video demonstrations to help you learn and to show you best practices. We'll keep working with mobile technologies such as the PhoneGap hybrid framework and HTML5 offline features, to show how they can be used with Web Experience Factory. The mobile application development world is rapidly evolving, and we fully intend to continue to move quickly to keep pace.
About the new product name
Just a few words about the product renaming: All of the interest in mobile development has caused more and more customers to consider using Portlet Factory both for their WebSphere Portal-managed web sites (which can be delivered to mobile and desktop devices) and for mobile web applications that are running on WebSphere Application Server. Portlet Factory has always supported the development of stand-alone servlet-based applications, but many customers didn't realize that, in part because of the product name. So now we've taken the word "portlet" out of the name, to help make it clear that the product is good for all of your "web experience" development. You'll probably notice that completing the transition to the new name will take time; for example, when you run the new Web Experience Factory Designer you'll still see the "WebSphere Portlet Factory" name.
About this blog
And lastly, a few words about this blog: We'll be using this blog to post some fairly informal writings from individuals on the Web Experience Factory team. We'll continue to publish articles on the Portlet Factory wiki (hmm, need to get the name of that changed...), but this blog will let us also post writings with more of an informal and personal slant. And we'll try to stay away from product marketing-type content here.
Please feel free to make comments about this blog. If you have suggestions for future blog topics you'd like to see covered, we'd love to hear them.