It’s not every day that one gets to profile startups that are doing very cool stuff in the platform space. While Platform (henceforth referred to as the P word) is pretty much an abused word with everyone using it left, right and center – once in a while there is a player who comes up with a product that looks holistic and promising.

App42 is one such platform which, in their own words “is a Unified PaaS (Platform as a Service) platform for Mobile & Web applications. Currently we have created over 180+ Cloud API’s with SDK’s for all popular platforms and languages, very soon we will be providing a deployment and execution environment for custom server side code using our Shared Cloud and Dedicated Cloud Containers.
Complete server side complexities are taken care by us allowing the App developer to focus on the UI and on their business functionality. Whether you are an iOS, Android or HTML5 App developer or developing SaaS and Enterprise Applications using popular languages like Java, Groovy, PHP, Ruby or python, our API’s will provide Technical as well as Business Services which you can use out of the box with minimal configuration and integrate in your App code.”

app42

While a lot of their stuff is under development, App42 looks to provide any developer an abstraction layer so that he/she can focus on the business logic and UI without bothering too much about the plumbing. Most complex app developers (not the alarm clock developer types) spend a lot of time writing plumbing around their server components e.g. logging, user session management and App42 wants to take away that load from the developers, helping them focus more on business logic.

App42 Ecosystem

app42_ecosystem

There are multiple components, which form the App42 Ecosystem.

1. App42 Cloud API’s:

The App42 Cloud API’s consists of a REST based service which has a JSON and XML interface. There are around 16+ modules with over 180+ API’s e.g. User, Session Management, Storage, Recommendation, Photo Gallery, Queue / Message, Game, Geo Spatial, AppTab – Subscription & Billing Engine etc. which will help developers to develop their applications; irrespective of the type of App they are developing. SDK’s are provided for all popular languages and platforms which will enable easy integration of the API’s into the App code. With just a few lines of code, the App developer gets access to services from a simple to complex technical as well as business services.

2. AppHQ – App42 Management Console

The App42 Management Console is an Admin UI interface allowing App developers to create Apps and manage them. It also allows viewing of the content created by the usage of API. For e.g. if an Album is created in Photo Gallery and Photos are added, all the Album information and Photo information which are stored on the cloud will be visible on AppHQ. Only view and delete functionality is supported in this release. For a few services like Queue, AppTab – Usage based Charging Scheme, Email Configuration, Add functionality is supported. It also gives detailed reporting on Charging usage for AppTab for various types of schemes e.g. Level, Feature, Storage, Bandwidth, License etc.

3. AppHawk – Cloud Project Management and Collaboration Service

One of the tools which every App developer requires is a tool to manage the project users, tasks, requirements, increments, estimation, costing, documents and collaboration tools for communication and sharing information. AppHawk gives a simple intuitive interface, using which an App Developer can start managing his projects in a few minutes. Apart from managing users, requirements, increments, estimation, Tasks, To-do’s, it also allows the App developer to do cost estimation for Cloud Resources, which has recurring cost e.g. Cloud Datacenter, AppStore/Market Place cost etc. For all App42 Cloud API registered users, currently AppHawk is a free service for 3 projects and unlimited users.
Developers who just want to use AppHawk, can access it directly from http://apphawk.shephertz.com – its currently in beta and free for 3 projects (and unlimited users).

Next in the line are  Federated, Shared and Dedicated Cloud Containers and AppClay, a mobile app generator.

In short, App42 is looking to address the full end to end ecosystem and not only niche needs. On the flip side, it would be interesting to compare with some offerings like Titanium Core and PhoneGap. While PhoneGap is a very basic app maker (I have never understood why people use it in the first place), there are lots of overlaps with Titanium – and it would be interesting to see how this space shapes up.

There is also the basic question of control and customization. Usually for specific needs, it is difficult to customize using platforms. While we haven’t used the offering yet, in other similar platforms customization has been the biggest roadblock to make complex apps.

So what do you think – is this startup going to crack the PaaS space with this offering? Try them out and let us know!

Lastly – I hope 42 is a tongue in cheek reference to “The secret of Life, Universe and Everything” as in HHGTG. If that’s the case – then respect!

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