Cost Effective Smart-Device App Development

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I noticed something interesting this morning. At my neighborhood Peet’s Coffee, where I ritually stop by every morning, usually I see a number of people hunched over their laptops, checking email, browsing the web, or doing some other work, a scene that is very similar across all coffee shops. However, today I noticed three people with iPads, one of them being myself.

This is a very high ratio for iPad. A single device from a single company against laptops and netbooks made by so many different companies, and for so many years. Clearly people love their iPads.

Colin Crawford in his blog The iPad Advantage competently argues how quickly these smart devices are growing and the fantastic opportunities that they present to content publishers. Same is true for business apps. Your users are on iPads and other similar devices scheduled to be released soon. Doesn’t it make sense for your apps to work well on them and deliver a user experience that is compatible with the strengths of these devices?

The problem is that creating native apps requires expensive traditional development. For most apps there simply isn’t adequate ROI. Furthermore, apps made for one platform, say iPhone, are incompatible with other platforms, such as Android or Blackberry.

However, two standards are supported by all smart devices: HTML and JavaScript. You can create great web apps that come very close to native app user experience. Provided that your application engine renders its user interfaces in such way that takes advantage of the strengths of smart devices.

Caspio’s platform-as-a-service has proven to be very effective in enabling the creation of such web apps cost effectively and without requiring any development skills. Since the introduction of our kit for iPhone, iPad and Android we have seen a growing number of our customers creating such applications.

The ROI is phenomenal. No coding and no upfront investment is required. A point-and-click application builder that is designed for non-developers guides the users to create polished, scalable and user friendly web application that rival native apps. What’s more is that Caspio can also power traditional web apps competently. It’s new paradigm in application creation that CIOs and business owner need to know about.

Are the users of smart devices expecting a better experience with your apps and databases than what you are offering on your web site?

Microsoft Dumps Access Developers

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In my early days as a developer, and soon after dBase became irrelevant, Microsoft Access was my primary tool of trade. It offered a relatively easy database and tools for creating forms and reports fast. Developers like me took advantage of it and an untold number of apps were developed, some of them still in use.

Then came the internet and Access wasn’t ready for the job. Yes, you could build web apps on Access but it was slow for large data sets, took too much server resources, didn’t perform well in multi-user environments, was not secure and just didn’t meet the requirements of web apps. MySQL gradually became the database of choice for most web developers.

Now Access 2010 is released, but it is still beating a drum that is different from what mainstream Access developers want to hear. Sure, you can make apps for SharePoint, but how many people are building apps exclusively for SharePoint?

Online databases are now all the rage and Access simply isn’t one. Our Caspio online database has most functionality available in Access but it lets users build highly scalable, multi-user web forms, reports and apps that can be deployed to any website, including SharePoint. On top of that, no programming is required.

Microsoft’s lack of interest in making Access more suitable for the web is understandable. It suffers from conflict of interests. By making Access better for the web, it would compete too much with Microsoft’s more profitable SQL Server. Microsoft online database strategy is SQL Azure and they are working hard to bring developers to it. Microsoft wants Access developers forget about Access and get going with Azure. However, SQL Azure is too complex and too expensive for the market that Access was serving.

Such an iconic application is stagnating without a clear direction for the future. Now that Microsoft Access 2010 is out it appears that the days of Access are over.

Access users of the world! Do not lament. Online databases are ready to serve you in such ways that Access was never able to. Caspio is certainly setup to help Access developers migrate their old apps to the web and build new ones fast and with confidence that their skills, experiences and knowledge are completely transferable to the Caspio platform.

Come check us out!

How Do You Pay for Your Platform-as-a-Service?

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It astonishes me to see that except for Caspio all platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers base their pricing on a per-user basis.

Before PaaS came into existence, people had to write code to make apps. You write the code, you own the app and you can have it used by as many people as you want. You only have to worry about adequate infrastructure to support your users.

PaaS makes the infrastructure an on-demand service. In the case of Caspio it also eliminates programming. However, with or without code, you still create your apps in a PaaS environment.

It seems unreasonable to pay the PaaS vendor for each of your users. A usage based pricing is more appropriate. That’s what Caspio has been doing since 2001.

Pricing models remnant of traditional desktop and enterprise software are stuck in the past. Usage based pricing must be the norm rather than the exception.

Caspio Celebrates 10 Years of Cloud Innovation

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anniversary-sealTen years ago about this time I terminated my early retirement to get back to the startup world to work on my vision of a code-free application development platform.

A year later Caspio Bridge 1.0 hit the market. It was a modest start, but we had built a Microsoft Access equivalent for the web. Initially the backend was an Oracle database and the middle tier was in Visual Basic. But the front-end was the most sophisticated AJAX user interface anywhere.

Most importantly, it delivered on the promise of allowing users to build web forms and searchable databases quickly and without coding. Our still-unique JavaScript deployment model meant that users could place these forms and apps on their own websites while Caspio remained their database and application engine entirely behind the scene.

The first release of Caspio Bridge went live in 2001. Since then we have kept improving the platform by adding capabilities that our customers have asked us to add. We have certified the platform in several ways including PCI certification that Microsoft Azure lacks, and have made it perhaps the most robust platform for building web applications available anywhere.

Today we power over 300,000 apps for companies as large as Fortune-500 conglomerates to small one-person shops, universities, government agencies and non-profits in the US and over 40 other countries. Caspio is the de facto standard in the online news category where over 80% of the largest American newspaper websites use Caspio to build community applications, publish government and local data and to accept citizen submissions and feedbacks.

I contribute our accomplishments to mainly two factors. First is perseverance. Caspio survived two economic downturns and initially slow customer adoption, but we persevered. In our guts we knew this is the future, it’s just that we are early. The second factor is that we never raised any external financing. To date Caspio is free from Venture Capital investment. We don’t even lease equipment. Our operation is entirely funded by our own revenues. We have no “run-way” that is about to end. This gives us the freedom to do what we must do, and that is serving our customers. Some of the competitors who raised VC funding are no longer around, because when going got tough, VC’s backed out and the company was shut down.

Caspio is now stronger than ever before. We feel that we’re just warming up. The world has begun to notice and understand the concept of Cloud Computing. Companies of all sizes realize that they need to establish their own cloud strategy. It’s exciting times for Caspio which has been working on this vision for 10 years.

Where Does Your Time Go?

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During the last days of 2009 I made an effort to teach my two oldest daughters who are 12 and 10, the value of goal setting. To make it exciting, I bought each of them their own particularly nice note book exclusively dedicated to writing their goals in.

Working with them to set goals for themselves turned out to be an easier task than I had prepared myself for. We worked together to set goals in each of the seven major areas of life: Health, Family, Financial, Intellectual, Social, Professional, and Spiritual. The kids had a lot of great ideas, albeit most of it was about all the places they wanted to visit, and once they got the hang of setting SMART goals, they were on their way to come up with their goals.

Of course the real work just began. They must develop the habit of breaking their big goals into smaller actionable tasks, measuring their results and refining their process. So far, 3 days into the New Year, things are going well. They have already started some of their new activities.

The truth is that how we spend our time determines what we get out of our life. There is an interesting interactive chart on New York Times’ website that shows how people tend to spend their time.

How we spend out time
Source: New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/07/31/business/20080801-metrics-graphic.html

The question for all of us is, where does our time go? We better have our own written goals and make sure a good amount of our times goes toward small actions that get us closer to them.

Five Misconceptions about Building Apps in the Cloud

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Over the years since we first started Caspio in 2000, we’ve grown accustomed to hearing disbelief from new users when they experience how easily they can create their own web apps without coding or software. And even as cloud computing gains momentum and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) becomes more mainstream, it’s remarkable to still frequently hear so many common misunderstandings from new users and so-called “experts” alike. I’ll try to tackle some of them here, primarily from Caspio’s perspective.

Misconception #1: Only simple apps are possible without coding

Depends how you define simple. You can certainly create a massively scalable, multi-faceted, multi-user, highly-interactive app on Caspio and integrate it with several other online apps and internal systems and load it with millions of records. On the other hand, games and other intensely graphical apps are not as well-suited on Caspio’s more structured database-centric app platform.

Misconception #2: Cloud apps are a temporary Band-Aid

The idea being that to build a “real” app for the long haul, you should go back to traditional coding. Not so! While it’s true that application development platforms (including Caspio’s) have their own unique strengths and approach to solving business problems, by no means are Caspio-powered apps a temporary stop-gap. We have countless customers who have built mission-critical enterprise applications since 2001, when our platform first launched, and continue to expand their usage today.

Misconception #3: Hosted applications pose security and reliability risks

Security and reliability are a big deal as they should be. But if you do proper due diligence in selecting your platform,  you could be assured that the security and reliability achieved through your cloud partner is typically above and beyond what’s available in most companies. Caspio is known in the industry for its leadership in enterprise-grade security and reliability measures. Read about our specific measures and policies here.

Misconception #4: Long-term apps are most cost effective when built in-house

What many don’t realize is that once you roll out an app, someone has to continuously host it, monitor its uptime, update its security, back up its data, apply upgrades, and deal with feature requests whenever necessary. When you leverage a hosted platform like Caspio’s, you automatically benefit from all the built-in maintenance, upgrades, support and economy of scale … without even having to think about it. Once you put these expenses into your ROI analysis you see that unless you are willing to make sacrifices in post-development operational quality, running your app on your own is not more cost effective than working with a well chosen cloud partner.

Misconception #5: Non-developers can’t build powerful apps

After many many years studying computer science at school, the mere thought that a web-based tool could make my skills redundant is disheartening to say the least. But cloud platforms are not meant to be a drag-and-drop replacement to ingenuity … they are accelerators and innovators.


Platform-as-a-service offerings are much like point-and-shoot cameras. They are increasingly smart in that they automatically find your subject, zoom in on them, adjust the shutter speed and so on, so all you have to do is to push the button. The result is a fairly nice photograph. Now is it as good as one taken by a professional photographer? Certainly not. But most pictures don’t require professional photography skills to turn out delightfully beautiful. Furthermore, just by spending an hour learning your camera’s user manual to get down the basic features of lighting, framing and movement, you can improve your picture quality dramatically.
In the world of application creation, Caspio is that point-and-shoot camera. The truth is that Caspio doesn’t make anyone a programmer. However, it does provide an easy way to implement your ideas. The trick is in planning and architecting your app. For that, Caspio offers free project consultations, customer training and technical support. So when you combine an easy-to-use tool with an eager-to-help support team to back you up, you bet that you can build powerful apps without knowing how to write programs.

Point-and-click app building is here and it’s only getting better. We have been focused on this for the past nine years and have seen thousands of fantastic app ideas get implemented without a single line of code. There used to be a time that only professional typesetters could create nice looking publications. Nowadays, my elementary school child uses Word to create great looking documents. Similarly, you now can create web forms and apps fast and without programming. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!

Caspio Spotlight: The Herald & Review

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The Herald & Review in Decatur, Ill., wanted to add an interactive component to the already successful print coupon campaign being used by the newspaper. The idea was to offer something extra to advertisers and to boost page views on the Herald-Review.com Web site. So it used Caspio’s tools to create an online coupon page that delivered on both counts. Despite a scarcity of the sophisticated coding skills needed to create a database, the staff experienced easy going using Caspio Bridge. It let them do the job themselves to create an attractive and effective online application. All that work on their part is good news for you because the Herald-Review is willing to share the finished web app for free with other Caspio clients [Request the App]. That means no development time on your part, yet you can reap all the rewards by using an application that’s already been real world tested – now that’s a sure recipe for success. Or, if you prefer, you can easily create your own web app with Caspio’s leading do-it-yourself database platform. Caspio makes it easy for anyone by furnishing the right tools to do the job and plenty of real time support for the times you need some quick assistance.

Source: http://herald-review.com/coupons/

QUICKBITS: Bridget Sibthorp-Moecker, Webmaster, The Herald-Review

“We have a printed coupon piece we do four times a year. We call it ‘Top Ads.’ We wanted something to go with it that was interactive and that included the ‘e-mail to a friend’ functionality. Caspio provided the right tools to get the job done quickly and economically.

“We had one main goal with the coupon page – and that was page views. We started right off with 3,000 page views a month. That’s good for something we are just starting out. And as the awareness grows, so will the response.

“I really like using Caspio. And when I needed help in the beginning, I found that Caspio’s online chat feature was a very quick way to get answers to my questions. And, I’ll tell you; the people at Caspio are knowledgeable. We’ve been able to solve every problem we ran into using the chat function.”

Count on Caspio’s Track Record and Reliability in Uncertain Times

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Coghead customers must have been shocked when they learned yesterday that their platform-as-service provider is shutting down. Unfortunately this is how most venture capitals work. It’s all about their exit strategy. Nothing else matters much. I learned it first hand at my first startup Autoweb.

Self-funded companies like Caspio are driven by different objectives and hold other values. We have been building Caspio one small step at a time for nine years with our own money and hard work. For us, the customer is first, then employees and finally the shareholders. This is how we weathered through the dot com crash years ago while others were forced to shut down.

Today we are stronger than ever before. Our product is mature, our platform is highly-scalable, and our business is flourishing. We are proud of our large base of customers that range from one-person operations to Forune-500 companies, government agencies, universities, non-profits, and over 75% of the largest American newspaper websites.

Upon learning about the shutdown of Coghead, we gathered our team and quickly put together a transition plan for Coghead customers. It’s outlined here.

Caspio also has a fantastic reseller and affiliate program and I invite you to check them out on our website or by calling our partner desk at 650-691-0900 x703.

We are actively hiring! Look up our Bay Area positions on our site or on Craig’s List. Competitor employees are welcome to apply.

Finally, a heart-to-heart word. If Coghead’s investors have left you in the cold, make sure you don’t fall into the hands of another venture-funded company. The days when VC-funding was a positive force are gone. Avoid all the risks of a VC startup and find yourself a vendor with both track record and reliability. We hope we can show you we deserve your trust. Call us up … we’re ready to help.

Caspio Bridge – a fast yet safe route over troubled waters

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It’s been too long since we’ve talked here – but luckily it has been a busy time at Caspio and that’s kept me away from the blog. As I read through the entries again I was hit by how often I’ve talked about speed.

And I started to think about the paradox of speed – how necessary it is in business and how dangerous it can be. After all, moving fast can be the difference between an opportunity realized and one that is lost. But I also was struck by the difference between being fast and being recklessly hasty. You must move quickly, yet out-of-control speed can kill, whether it is on the highway or in the board room.

Some companies – in an effort to get speed from overworked IT departments – are tempted to trust the success of their idea to applications rushed to development with inadequate time for thinking. That often means a hurried up specification process. Here‘s more about that danger.

You don’t have to be a software genius to know the most important part of creating an application is carefully working out just what it should do and how it’ll do it. Yet, in a job rushed through IT, that dangerous corner is sometimes cut.

Blitz development is ripe with the opportunity for error or a poorly conceived application. At best, it can amount to an expensive way to do things. At worst? You spend time and money on an application that is doomed from the start.

In an effort to go to market fast organizations can put their projects in a downward spiral that amounts to no more than a major sinkhole for time and money. It’s interesting isn’t it? You have to go fast to take advantage of a tiny window of opportunity. Yet, if you ignore safety in the rush you can crash and burn.

Luckily, there’s an art to moving fast safely.

Caspio Bridge provides that elegant solution. Its inherent advantage of safe speed means – even on the tightest of schedules – that there’s plenty of time for the specification process. But that’s just the start of what it offers.

Since Caspio Bridge creates a prototype fast you have the luxury of using it as a real world test bed to fine tune even the best thought out ideas with a tiny investment of time and money. The prototype can be changed with a few clicks of the mouse making it is easy to test various approaches. Ordinary users, without help from IT, can try out ways to make it even better with no risk and little investment. If a new idea works, that’s great. If not, you can move quickly to the next approach without spending a lot of time and money.

The amazing fact is that your prototype is actually the final product and is good for production. You can roll it out to all your users instantly.

The need for speed is greater than ever. But so is the need to spend your development time and money wisely.  Caspio Bridge can be a bridge over troubled waters – giving you a proven platform that lets you move quickly and safely to grab an opportunity before it vanishes.