The prodigious growth of mobile devices for businesses -- and the plethora of apps that run on them -- has created tremendous challenges for developers. Arguably, their greatest challenge is how to create and deploy cross-platform applications quickly and within budget.
Stepping up to solve that challenge are a number of vendors offering mobile application development solutions or, what researcher Gartner calls Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAPs).
A MEAP provide tools and client/server middleware for mobile (targeting any sort of mobile application), multichannel (highly device/OS- and network-adaptive), and thick (offline) enterprise application development.
Gartner believes that more than 95 percent of organizations will choose MEAP or packaged mobile application vendors as their primary mobile development platforms through 2012.
MEAPs enable companies to deploy multiple mobile applications across several devices, helping them to achieve enterprise app creation far beyond their bandwidth.
Leading vendors in the MEAP space include Sybase, Spring Wireless and Antenna. Appcelerator, Pyxis Mobile, Rhomobile, and WorkLight are among the up-and-comers.
This month WorkLight unveiled WorkLight Mobile Platform Version 4.0, which includes what the vendor calls 'the first multi-platform hybrid coding IDE.'
This IDE enables companies to develop smartphone and tablet applications using a centralized, enterprise-ready custom development process using a variety of native and web technologies. The new version of WorkLight also offers unified push notifications, runtime skinning of applications for devices of the same operating system, remote application disabling and optimization for iPad and Android tablets.
"The WorkLight platform allows us to create apps very quickly and inexpensively across major mobile platforms," said Jim Saleh, CTO, Chaikin Stock Research, a financial software company.
"WorkLight is one of those all-in-one platforms that offer companies a solution to enhance their developers' productivity by targeting multiple devices in a single effort," said Al Hilwa, program director of application development software at IDC.
Other all-in-one platforms include the open source Titanium (from Appcelerator), the open source Rhodes (from Rhomobile) and Pyxis Mobile (from Pyxis Mobile).
Rhodes allows developers to build native mobile applications for all smartphones. These are true native device applications (not mobile web apps) which work with synchronized local data and take advantage of device capabilities such as GPS, PIM contacts, and camera.
Configure Once, Run Anywhere
Pyxis Mobile 7.1 provides configure-once, run-anywhere application development across various smartphone platforms- with no coding or compilation.
Pyxis Mobile makes it possible for enterprises to provide users with business applications that run on the devices they chose. Rather than custom developing applications for each device operating system separately, Pyxis Mobile's customers use the company's platform software to deliver packaged 'rich client' applications that automatically run natively across many devices.
Other features in Pyxis Mobile 7.1 include multi-platform image and styling consistency, configurable screen transitions, rich and interactive usage reporting, video support, highly flexible push, and much more. These features are configured once in Application Studio and available immediately across supported mobile devices.
A recent survey conducted by Pyxis Mobile found that although the biggest roadblock for firms' expanding their mobile strategy is budgetary restraints, employees are increasingly understanding the value of enterprise mobile applications and are driving the internal shift toward deploying enterprise-wide mobility.
Fifty-one percent of respondents said their budget was the main barrier preventing them from investing in developing a company-wide mobile strategy, while only 6 percent cited low interest from the employee base as a roadblock.
Survey respondents included business leaders from major industries such as health and life sciences, consumer goods, manufacturing, higher education, government, real estate and financial services.
"Mobility is no longer a nice-to-have, but a need-to-have, across all industries," said Steve Levy, CEO of Pyxis Mobile.
Companies are now seeing the shift internally, as employees seek apps and solutions to help them do their jobs more effectively and meet their clients' needs, he added.