The iPhone is clearly making some inroads in the business world, and RoamBi, which launched today, is one of the many new companies that is trying to win over some of these business customers. RoamBi's mission is to make spreadsheets readable and browsable on the iPhone (iTunes link), and its designers have done a great job at turning dry and unreadable spreadsheets into highly useful interactive mini-apps. These 'apps' allow users to visualize their data on the small iPhone screen, where they would otherwise be squinting at columns full of unreadable numbers.

RoamBi, which has quite an impressive team of executives behind it, has two major components, both of which are currently available for free: the iPhone app, which allows you to view your data, and an online app on the RoamBi site, the RoamBi Publisher, which allows users to import data and format it for viewing on the phone. In addition, RoamBi also hosts its own software for managing the interaction between the iPhone app and the web app on Amazon's cloud computing platform.

Connect to Salesforce.com - More Enterprise Features Coming Soon

Business users will be happy to hear that RoamBi already connects to Salesforce.com, though the company plans to release a full-blown paid version of the service and the RoamBi server, which can be hosted behind a company's firewall, in about three months.

In many ways, the current version of the app is only a preview of the full functionality that RoamBi will give to enterprise customers who will be able to license the service's server.

Part I: Publisher

The iPhone app and the Publisher work hand in hand. The publishing application allows users to upload files or import them from Salesforce.com, decide which view to choose for a specific spreadsheet, modify which tables and columns to display in the new spreadsheet, and then publish the edits to the iPhone.

However, once these files are uploaded and published, we couldn't quite figure out if it was also possible to manage these documents (and unpublish them, for example), from the web app. It looks like this functionality is only available from the phone.

Part II: iPhone App

This isn't really something we expected we would say when we received RoamBi's PR pitch, but the application really makes spreadsheets sexy. While the absence of any editing mode might limit its functionality a bit more than we would have hoped, we have yet to see an app on a mobile device that can do what RoamBi can, and RoamBi's designers clearly know what they are doing.

We could describe the different views that RoamBi uses to visualize data in detail, but the best way to get a good feel for the functionality of the app is through the iPhone simulator on RoamBi's homepage.

The mobile app is extremely intuitive and manages to transform large spreadsheets, which are usually pretty unmanageable on a small screen, and turns them into small mini-apps which don't just look good, but also work just as you expect them to. The design makes good use of the phone's touch screen, and while some of the views look deceptively simple, the intuitive interface allows you to easily drill deeper into the data.

Give it a Try

For now, RoamBi is only available on the iPhone, and when we talked to the RoamBi team last week, they told us that they were watching the mobile market carefully, but that the iPhone currently offered the best experience for the kind of app that RoamBi wanted to develop. Given that about 80% of the RoamBi code was developed for the publisher and the server, though, the company should be able to release apps for more platforms relatively quickly.

Of course, in a perfect world, RoamBi would be part of an iPhone office suite, where users could not just view data, but also edit it in a similarly elegant user interface, but for now, RoamBi turns accessing spreadsheets on the go into a completely new and surprisingly pleasant experience, and we can only assume that its paid offering will find a lot of thankful users once it is released in a few months.