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5/8/2012
09:16 AM
Patrick Houston
Patrick Houston
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Framehawk Says BYOD Is Not Rocket Science

Startup Framehawk, which counts a former NASA physicist as a co-founder, uses desktop virtualization and its own communications protocol to safely extend corporate apps and data to tablets and smartphones.

What's more, Framehawk puts a thin skin on the corporate app to adapt it to the mobile device, allowing for things like control by touch gesture instead of a desk-bound mouse.

I've seen (admittedly cursory) Framehawk demos of Salesforce and, better yet, one of those ceaselessly updating trading desk apps work on an iPad. The apps looked nothing like their desktop uses but instead took on the look and feel of a native tablet app.

Even my rudimentary explanation should make the benefits obvious. With Framehawk, there's no need to write a corporate app for mobile. All the heavy processing is done on the data center's industrial strength servers. Most of the data fetching takes place over its big pipes. And most of all, the data stays put--only visual representations of it go out. No data transmits over the mobile network. None remains resident on the mobile device itself. So the risk of its being hacked, stolen, lost, or misplaced diminishes.

Yes, there's cause for skepticism. For one thing, Framehawk so far lacks an offline capability, which was raised as an issue by a panel of IT pros assessing it at the recent Under the Radar conference where I first learned about the company.

Savid Technologies CEO Mike Davis, an Information Week contributor and security expert, raised other concerns in a chat we had. While Framehawk looks great for the highly visual dashboard applications it sports in its demonstrations, neither one of us has seen it work with apps demanding fine motor skills, like filling in the cell of a spreadsheet. And while I'm bullish on Framehawk's approach, Mike, for one, believes the future of MDM lies with the dual OS approach, because it represents a path of least-resistance, available to corporate users from mobile carriers or in the hardware itself.

When compared to those two options, Framehawk isn't cheap. The company tells me it sells its services as a cloud-based subscription starting at $250,000 year--and going up from there.

But there's more, not less, to like about Framehawk. It isn't a bootstrap. It's raised $16.5 million in venture capital funding. It's claimed an impressive beta client in the form of the wealth management arm of Switzerland's UBS banking behemoth. And it was the "mobile access" category winner as voted by an audience of 350 CIOs, IT pros, cloud entrepreneurs, and VCs attending the Under the Radar conference.

While Framehawk might not be the be-all, end-all answer to the BYOD dilemma, it still goes a long way to proving that a solution exists, here and nearby, not at the unreachable distances of deep space.

Patrick Houston is the co-founder of MediaArchiTechs. He is a former SVP for a new media startup, a GM at Yahoo, and editor-in-chief at CNET.com. He can be reached at patrick.houston@mediaarchitechs.com.

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