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It should go without saying that Facebook is becoming one of the most important marketing tools at a small business’s disposal. The power of social media — and Facebook in particular — to help a business engage with and build community among its customers cannot be overstated.

Which is why we have, with MobiFlex 1.96, added a Facebook sharing capability to our ViziApps mobile app development tool. With it, users have the ability to share text and media files — including images, videos, and audio — via Facebook, as well as via SMS and e-mail. Users simply select the Share action in the property sheets of buttons, image buttons, tables, and switches.

The addition was a no-brainer for the MobiFlex team. We’ve always been committed to helping our users engage with their customers, employees, partners, and community at large, and Facebook is one of the fastest and most effective ways to do that.

So what else is new? MobiFlex 1.96 has added an array of other features, including a Select action for tables that enables multiple table rows to be selected and counted; and a Go to Previous Page action, which we discussed here last week. The latter allows users to improve their app’s user experience and seamlessly link from their app to external resources, such as help documentation, with the tap of the back button.

ViziApps

No news may be good news, but sometimes the news is good. There are changes afoot at MobiFlex, and we’re excited to announce them to you. Today, we’re rolling out ViziApps, our flagship visual mobile app development tool, and we’re certain the mobile app landscape will never be the same.

Sounds like a big deal, right? We think so. This new self-service platform will build on the first-generation mobile-app platform that we launched earlier this year, and the features and capabilities it offers — enhanced visual app design tools, visual data integration access, and more — allowing business owners and managers to quickly create and publish mobile apps. And all work is done visually, eliminating the need for technical expertise, coding skills, and major time commitments.

ViziApps also eliminates the need for massive capital budgets. Our proprietary system of drag-and-drop wizards, selection tools, widgets, and graphic interface features is free to use to create and test mobile apps. Only when you are ready to publish your app do you pay a $99 provisioning fee. From there, a monthly subscription fee of $10 to $199 — based on the app’s number of users and screens — is the only remaining cost.

As you’re undoubtedly aware, mobile apps are becoming crucial for small- and mid-sized businesses to encourage engagement and build community. With the new ViziApps platform, we make it easier, faster, and cheaper than ever for you to create and publish them. Come visit us atViziApps and we’ll show you how we do it.

Also, please read this great article about MobiFlex and ViziApps from Xconomy.

So you have a mobile app developed and ready to go. What comes next? How do you get your app into the hands — or, rather, onto the devices — of the people you want to use it?

You may not realize it, but you have a few options. The one you probably thought of first is the Apple iTunes App Store, where — no surprise — you can publish iPhone apps. On the Android side of the spectrum, Google’s Android Market is the primary public option for Android apps.

But other publishing options are emerging. Amazon, for one, has introduced its own Appstore for Android, and others are certain to follow. And alternately, web apps can be published directly from their source — think your website — because they’re primarily web pages that are being sent to people’s phones through RSS feeds.

It comes down to this: the best way to distribute and publish your app depends on the nature of the app itself. If it’s for consumers, or if you want to give it away or sell it broadly to a whole range of public users, including B2B customers or partners, then iTunes and Android Market are attractive options.

However, the requirements for publishing within each are different. Both iTunes and Android Market require you to have an app developer license. For iTunes, the license is free for an individual, but in most cases you’ll need a $99 per year company license. You apply through Apple.com, and you need to supply specific information about your certificate of incorporation or other evidence that you’re a legitimate business entity. It typically takes 30 or more days for Apple to approve new licenses of this type, so users should start this process right away when they want to get their app into the iTunes App Store. Click on this link to register as an Apple developer.

Android Market works a bit differently. There, a developer license can be purchased for a one-time $25 fee, and you can typically get approval within 24 hours and be publishing your app immediately thereafter. Click on this link to register as an Android developer.

So where do we come in? At MobiFlex, you create and test your app for free. When it’s ready to publish, we provide you with the app file, which you simply submit to Apple or Android Market just like a custom-developed app. Bear in mind: Apple does a very careful review of every app submitted. They’re looking for security backdoors and technical bugs, as well as objectionable material. These are all very logical and understandable criteria. But Apple also has other rules that you can see at the Apple developer site after you register as a developer. For instance, Apple can reject apps that they, in their sole judgment, believe are “only for marketing purposes with no intrinsic value” or that lack real commercial or entertainment value. This review process usually takes a week, but it can take longer. When apps are rejected, they need to be carefully restructured to address the issues before they’re resubmitted.

On the flip side, there’s no review in the Android Market. Apps submitted there will typically appear within a few hours for access by users.

But what if you’re not interested in sharing your app with the public? Say you’re a corporation and you have an app that you want to distribute strictly to your employees? Apple offers an option for “enterprise distribution.” This is for apps that are intended for a company’s internal users, and there are some authorization and authentication requirements.

As you can see, businesses have a number of options for publishing their mobile apps, with others on the horizon. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. how we can help you get your app into the market.

We’ve talked a lot lately about exciting changes in the world of mobile apps for small businesses. One of the biggest and most important changes of all is that of the cost of developing these apps.

Until recently, businesses looking to create an app were dependent on engineers with serious technical chops. And those engineers didn’t come cheap: think $40,000 to $50,000 range and up, just to get an app to the point of publication. Not to mention the cost of purchasing, building, and maintaining any related software or databases. Then, within days or even hours, businesses often discovered — based on user feedback — changes that needed to be made. Every time a business owner wanted to make an update or upgrade to an app, or fix a bug, another $3,000 to $5,000 was required.

But the times, as they say, are a-changing. As technology progresses, custom application shops are able to produce apps more quickly and cost-effectively. The new bottom line? An app that once cost $50,000 to develop might soon be $35,000 to $40,000 — not an insignificant savings, though certainly still not affordable for many small businesses and departments in larger businesses. And that’s before your first user even downloads your app.

So is that as good as it gets?

Fortunately, no. With MobiFlex’s App Studio, you can design and test your app for free: simply log in and lay out your screens and data using drag-and-drop wizards, selection tools, and widgets. Only when you’re ready to publish your app do you reach for your wallet — and even then, the cash outlay is a palatable $99 provisioning fee. From there, you pay a monthly subscription fee — ranging from $10 to $199 — based on the app’s number of users and screens. That means you could use the MobiFlex App Studio to publish an unlimited-screens, unlimited-users app for $199 a month for over 12 years before you’d pay as much for a comparable custom app — and without the whopping up-front bill. On top of that, there’s no extra charge for app changes, bug fixes, and upgrades! And with MobiFlex’s integrated Google Docs spreadsheet capabilities, you can avoid the costs of building and maintaining complex backend databases.

Not sure how to begin? MobiFlex offers a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. meeting to help you kick off your app development.

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