Bungee has released a new version of its web application development and hosting service and announced that it has opened its public beta programme to all developers.

The new version of Bungee Connect includes wizards to simplify specific workflows for developers and it supports the ability to import code between projects, the company said. The upgrade also provides several updates to the stylesheets, making styles easier to define and apply.

First launched in April, Bungee Connect helps developers build rich Internet applications that can be hosted by Bungee's grid infrastructure. By bundling application development and testing with hosting, Bungee aims to slash the time and costs associated with the entire application life cycle.

"It's time to stop developing 'here' and running 'there.' Today, most applications are coded in one environment (usually custom-built for that project by a developer), then tested in another, and redeployed to yet another for production," said David Mitchell, Bungee's founder and chief technology officer. "In addition to the costs of building, configuring and maintaining these separate environments, applications almost always need to change and get refactored to overcome roadblocks as they proceed through the software life cycle, which incurs even more costs along the way."

Applications built with Bungee can be embedded within other web applications and pages, linked to on-demand services or run as stand-alone Web applications. Bungee Connect and all applications built with Bungee are accessed through Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari, and do not require that any software be downloaded, installed or plugged in, the company said.

Developers can use Bungee without charge to develop software, to collaborate with colleagues and to test applications. They are charged only when end users run an application that was built using Bungee.

For applications running on its grid, Bungee provides developers with details about usage patterns and performance. Depending on usage, businesses can expect to pay $2 (£1) to $5 (£2.50) per month per user for a heavily used business productivity application or fractions of a cent per e-commerce transaction, the company noted. The applications will be hosted for free during the public beta.

"Cloud computing, internal-external mashups and online business services are hastening the need for new business models that can support entire application life cycles," said Dana Gardner, an analyst at Interarbor Solutions. "It's not enough to develop as a service, or to deploy as a service - the fuller cost-benefit payback comes from the application life cycle as a service. All the better that costs to support the applications from inception to sunset are commensurate with use and demand."

Sara Perez, a blogger at Read Write Web, noted that Bungee Connect lets developers focus on building feature-rich applications and not just on making sure that their product works.

"Unlike services that 'dumb down' development so any user can build apps (think Yahoo Pipes, [Microsoft's] Popfly), Bungee Connect is meant for professional developers," Perez wrote.

She highlighted WideLens, a reference application that Bungee released this week that's designed to integrate calendaring in Microsoft Exchange, Salesforce.com, Google Calendar and other sources to show that Bungee Connect-built applications are "highly interactive, secure and reliable desktop-like apps that can use multiple web services and databases in a single on-demand environment."

However, she added that it remains to be seen whether developers can "trust the cloud enough" to switch from their current set of tools to a web-based application.