Design your own iPhone and BlackBerry apps

A startup is looking to take the hard work out of creating mobile applications and porting them to the iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile platforms, through an online service that gives novice developers simple templates for various types of businesses and organisations.

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A startup is looking to take the hard work out of creating mobile applications and porting them to the iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile platforms, through an online service that gives novice developers simple templates for various types of businesses and organisations.

With an eye to software novices, Mobile On Services' BuildAnApp service tackles a problem that has plagued professional mobile developers for years: Unlike on the web and in the world of PCs, there are many different platforms to write for if you want to reach many mobile users. Once a customer has gone through the steps on the BuildAnApp site to create a new application, Mobile On uses its proprietary software to package the app for three of the major smartphone platforms and also develop a mobile optimised website, said company co-founder Scott Pearson.

Users get 30 days free to design the application and populate it with content such as news, restaurant menus and click to dial phone numbers. After that, they pay to bring new content into the application. Mobile On will submit it to Apple's App Store for $19.99 (£12), including resubmissions if it is rejected.

The company designed BuildAnApp for small businesses, retail stores, nonprofit organisations and professionals such as doctors. To build an application, users simply pick the template for their type of organization, choose from among typical types of pages to put within the app, and populate the app with information. Then they can select people they want to alert to the application, and Mobile On will send email messages to those people with a link to a download page. Users with a supported phone can then download the application direct. The applications can be kept private with access passwords.

A pizza restaurant and a small clothing store created applications during BuildAnApp's closed beta test, which just concluded, Pearson said. The pizza place's application includes, among other things, the menu and a button to call the shop and place an order, he said. The clothing store shows pictures of new items in the shop.

BuildAnApp's 16 templates include ones for a real estate agent, a school, a sports league and a religious organisation. There is also a template for "other" that includes a wide range of page types selected from the other templates. The company is also developing a "pro" version of the service for skilled developers creating more sophisticated applications, Pearson said.

Though BuildAnApp has just entered its open beta test, which is likely to continue into the first quarter of next year, Mobile On is now charging after a customer's 30-day free trial. Users can pay $7.99 for a one time content or application update or pay $14.99 per month to make as many updates as they wish. Unlimited updates for six months are available for $59.99.

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