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Enterprise Application Development in a Mobile World: Design for Mobile First

How do developers create and deploy cross-platform applications in the face of mobile device sprawl? Design for mobile first, says one analyst.


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The indicators and the research are everywhere: mobile apps are becoming the dominant force in software development. A recent Forrester Research report titled Mobile App Internet Recasts The Software And Services Landscape predicted the mobile apps market could balloon to $38 billion by 2015 from its current value of $1.7 billion. The challenge for developers and IT departments is tackling their mobile development needs while integrating mobile apps with multichannel and enterprise apps.

The solution to that challenge (according to Forrester) might be to design for mobile first. That's the principal conclusion of the new Forrester Wave: Mobile Collaboration, Q3 2011 report written by Ted Schadler. Mobile collaboration now requires a new app approach, asserts Schadler.

Mobile User Expectations and Demands

Schadler's report states, "We now live and always will live in a multi-device world, where companies and consumers choose different smartphone and tablet platforms and expect to get apps on all of them."



Increasingly, work has become something that people do anywhere. Two-thirds of the information workforce already works remotely, according to Demystifying The Mobile Workforce, a Forrester report issued this June. That figure is only likely to grow, given the adoption of tablets and the growing use of smartphones.

In a related report, Gartner said worldwide sales of smartphones will reach a staggering 1.1 billion in 2015. As early as the end of 2011, Gartner expects that smartphone sales will be 468 million units, a 57.7 percent increase over last year.

Schadler notes that the most productive employees now use four devices to get work done. This means that "client/server solutions with on-premises servers are inadequate, simply not responsive or agile enough for escalating user requirements and expectations."

Because of the proliferation of devices, Schadler also believes mobile apps need to be designed to run well on any mobile device. With so many different mobile platforms and form factors to target, app developers will have to organize differently, code differently, and execute differently. In this new environment, design skills will grow ever-more important and scarce.

As a result, there will be new abstraction layers that separate presentation from interaction and interaction from back-end services.

Mobile Applications on Multiple Platforms

The growth of mobile devices and the plethora of apps that run on them leaves developers with one huge challenge: how to create and deploy cross-platform applications quickly and within budget.

Many vendors offer mobile application development solutions, which Gartner calls Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms (MEAPs). A MEAP provides 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. In so doing, MEAPs enable companies to deploy multiple mobile applications across several devices, helping them to achieve enterprise app creation far beyond their bandwidth.

Gartner predicts that more than 95 percent of organizations will choose MEAPs or packaged mobile application vendors as their primary mobile development platforms through 2012. Leading vendors in the MEAP space include Sybase, Spring Wireless and Antenna. Appcelerator, Pyxis Mobile, Rhomobile and WorkLight are among the up-and-comers.

Recently, WorkLight unveiled WorkLight Mobile Platform Version 4.0, which includes what the vendor calls "the first multi-platform hybrid coding IDE." This IDE enables developers to create smartphone and tablet applications via a centralized, enterprise-ready custom development process using a variety of native and Web technologies.

Other all-in-one platforms include the open source Titanium (from Appcelerator), the open source Rhodes (from Rhomobile) and Pyxis Mobile (from Pyxis Mobile).



   
Herman Mehling has written about IT for 25 years. He has written hundreds of articles for leading computer publications and websites.
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