Analyst Report: The cross-platform mobile app: advice for enterprise developers

Analysis

Development tools and methodologies for cross-platform mobile applications have been with us for many years, and they now claim some astounding benefits: five to ten times faster development; usage of familiar languages like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS; and development and maintenance of a single codebase.

Today’s developers now have several choices to assist with cross-platform design, ranging from options of application type, supported languages, toolkits, and delegation of logic to scalable, remote backends. Each of these comes with a set of trade-offs, and the speed with which they evolve requires examination of where each will be headed in the future.

In this report, we explore and expand on the following:

  • The four avenues through which mobile cross-platform development can be achieved (mobile-styled web app, hybrid app, cross-compiled app, and MBaaS), along with the limitations, benefits, and use cases for each.
  • The strict limitations of HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS applications and the specific use cases and applications for which the approach may be valid.
  • The tremendous upside of solutions like Xamarin and Appcelerator, which enable developers to write code in one language and cross-compile down to native code on mobile devices.
  • The fairly recent trend in offloading client-side business logic to MBaaS and remote service solutions and where this approach does and does not make sense.
  • Organizational and structural challenges encountered by web and desktop development teams and how managers can best overcome those challenges.

(Feature image courtesy Flickr userphilcampbell)

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Defining the mobile beast
  3. User expectations trump developer benefits
  4. Questions to ask before you start
  5. Four paths to a cross-platform app
  6. Mobile-styled website
  7. Hybrid apps
  8. Cross-compiled native apps
  9. MBaas and remote services
  10. Organizational concerns
  11. Key takeaways
  12. About Rich Morrow
  13. About GigaOM Research

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