New software makes iPhones spreadsheet-friendly

SAN FRANCISCO: US software developer MeLLmo on Tuesday released a free application that turns iPhones into powerful tools for analyzing spreadsheets and reports, enhancing the appeal of Apple mobile devices to businesses.

The application, named RoamBi, intuitively imitates the way business reports are read and then presents results in graphics adapted to iPhones touch-screen size and capabilities, said MeLLmo chief executive Santiago Becerra.

"We are leading the way in more interactive visual reports that will power people to be more productive and make the iPhone more attractive to business," Becerra said as he demonstrated RoamBi for AFP in San Francisco.

Corporations such as Kraft Foods, Oracle and Genentech have deployed iPhones on a large scale, but those companies are exceptions in a work mobile telephone market dominated by BlackBerry, a device made by Canada-based Research In Motion.

"I can't talk to a vendor today without the iPhone coming up," said Sean Ryan, a software analyst at the market research and analysis firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

"It is ever present in people's minds and applications like RoamBi could drive more enterprise usage." Becerra said he and other MeLLmo founders were "mesmerized" by iPhone graphics capabilities and its potential as a revolutionary technology platform.

"Mobile phones have been effective at connecting people to people any time or any place, but they have not been successful at connecting people to information," Becerra said.

"Trying to consume information on mobile devices is a painful experience; it's like trying to read a spreadsheet through a straw. You have the information, but making sense of it is hard." RoamBi mimics the way readers' eyes navigate spread sheets or data laden business reports and then summarizes information in interactive pie or bar charts or graphs.

Applications such as RoamBi promise to help iPhones make inroads in the business market, but BlackBerry is firmly entrenched with a system built to let companies protect data and manage devices, Ryan said.

Analysts say that business leaders are reluctant to adopt iPhones because there is no platform that gives managers technical support for networks of smart phones that their employees are using.

Company managers also want tools like those used on Blackberries to regulate smart phone capabilities, such as downloading Internet files, watching videos, and taking photographs.

"The BlackBerry did come into the enterprise the way the iPhone has: executives wanted a shiny new toy," Ryan said. "The iPhone is so fun and compelling that executives want to have it and get it supported on some level." A RoamBi Publisher that converts spreadsheet data and sends it to iPhones is hosted online as a service. RoamBi is also part of an AppExchange offered by software-as-a-service star

Basic RoamBi service is free. The year-old company plans to soon offer a premium RoamBi version on a subscription basis and sell a version of the software that can be installed in company servers.