Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA) or Cross Platform Mobile Development Tools – a Comparison

To build and maintain applications required to reach out to you customer through Mobile & Smart phone is expensive.

Why? Because of platform proliferation. Because of quick technology obsolescence.  (See this)

Management perception compounds the problem.

Anybody, not intimately familiar with this technical challenge, perceives that the effort of developing a mobile application should be proportional to the size of the screen. In other words, since mobile screen is much smaller than a PC or a Laptop screen, the effort required for developing application should also be proportionately less.

Hence the budget for developing and maintain mobile channel becomes small!

What is the way out?

Only way out is to use a tool or a framework which can support multiple platforms. However, as of today, there isn’t any “one size fit all” tool. There are many tools available in the market – each has its own strength and weakness.

Good news is that most of the tools are available for you to try them out. Some of them are …

Some of them have recently been acquired and their status may change in the near future:

–          PhoneGap by Adobe

–          OpenPlug by Alcatel-Lucent

–          Bedrock (Metismo) by Software AG

So, how do you go about selected the tool which is right for you?

Questions you should ask yourself

  1. Do you really need an installable native application? Why not just stick to a mobile website?
  2. If an installable native application is really needed – which platforms should you target now? One year down the line?
  3. What is the expected life of the application? Will you be ready to scrap it in a couple of years’ time?
  4. If you make a native iPhone application which does not feels like a true iPhone application – would it be acceptable? What about similar Android application?

After you have realistically answered these questions you might decide one of the following paths:

–          Stick to a generic mobile website

–          Build an iPhone application only

–          Native application needs to feel truly like a native application

If so then you need only to look at the first of the five categories of the tool given below.

5 Categories of WORA Tools

  1. Mobile Web: These tools are primarily JavaScript libraries which in combination with suitable HTML 5 and corresponding CSS render you mobile website on different types of devices. Some of these tools can work in conjunction with Hybrid tool and the result can be packaged as a native application. [Here is a comparison of 10 such tools]
  2. Visual Tool: They provide a visual interface where elements / widgets are dropped into the screen and the internal application plumbing is taken care by the tool. The resultant (depending on the tool) is either a native application or a mobile website.  [Here is a comparison of 5 such tools]
  3. App Generator: In this category you have tools where you write your application in a specific language but the tool translates it into a deployable native application for different platforms. The deployable application may include a runtime engine or a virtual machine. The programming language varies from tool to tool. [Here is a comparison of 6 such tools]
  4. Hybrid App: This category of tools provide a platform specific shell application which has the capability of rendering prepackaged HTML pages and extends the HTML capability through APIs which allow access to device specific features. Some of them include libraries to render platform specific UI. [Here is a comparison of 5 such tools]
  5. Game Builder: This is similar to the previous category but these tools are primarily targeted for game development. They have much richer UI library and may even have 3D graphics capability. Some of them use special languages like Lua or LiveCode. Their cross-platform capability may extend beyond just mobile devices. (Bedrock (Metismo), Corona (Ansca), Livecode (RunRev) , Marmalade, Unreal, Unity 3) [Here is a comparison of 9 such tools]

Next >> Mobile Web Tools


Technology Trend – Minus the Hype

If you are a pragmatist, you sure would like make your technology investment decision after discounting all the hype that surrounds the emerging technologies. The task is not easy since among all the hype around the new technologies a real inflection point may be hiding – and you would definitely not want to miss that. What is the best way to do it?

You should start by asking the following questions …

  1. What are the specific trigger points that started the hype?
  2. How much has the technology moved in last one year?
  3. If the current trend continues then where will it be in one year time?
  4. What happens if you take no action on the specific technology for next one year?

In this post I will answer the first and the second question for all the technologies that are of interest to me. I will follow this up with subsequent separate posts where I will take a deeper dive and answer question 3 and 4 for each of the technologies. So, let me start …

Technology What are the specific trigger points that started the hype? How much has the technology moved in last one year?
Cloud Computing

[Answers to question 3&4]

  • Success of Salesforce.com
  • Realization that virtualization can significantly improve server utilization
  • Success of Amazon Web Service
  • Prediction by analyst that a large centralized infrastructure provider can achieve an economy of scale
  • Nothing much has changed in last one year
  • Concerns about security and reliability continue to be there.
  • There has been no breakthrough announcement.
  • Though everybody has jumped into the bandwagon, the improvements in the cloud offerings have only been incremental.
  • None of the PaaS platforms have shown much traction.
Mobile Computing

[Answers to question 3&4]

Mobile story is more than 10 years old and has already gone through one complete hype cycle.The trigger point for the current hype is:

  • Launch of iPhone
  • Prediction that Smartphone Sales To Beat PC Sales By 2011 (see this)
  • Mobile Web usage more than doubling YoY (see this)
  • Launch of iPad has open up a whole new chapter in mobile computing
  • Android devices has become the second largest selling mobile handset after Symbian (see this)
  • HTML5 on mobile is maturing and it provides features which was earlier in the realm of the native applications (see this)
  • There is a tussle going between Google & Apple to corner the mobile ad spend
Web 2.0

[Answers to question 3&4]

Tim O’Reilly & Dale Dougherty had coined the term in 2003. It was inspired by the success of, among others:

  • Wikipedia
  • Google Adsense
  • Flickr
  • Bit torrent
  • Blogosphere

See the original article by Tim O’Reilly written on 2005.

  • The term Web 2.0 is used less frequently and has been replaced by the term Social Media
  • Facebook has emerged – some of the statistics indicate that it has become the most visited web site (see this)
  • Google vs. Facebook is the big story
  • Twitter has gained significant ground on instant crowd sourced news
  • Wikipedia is still free and without advertisement. (If you want it to remain so then please contribute)

[Answers to question 3&4]

The basic concept of a service bus has been around since the 80’s. However, the term SOA was first used by Alexander Pasik in 1994.It became the “in thing” with the emergence of Web Services.

However, last year many experts pronounced the obituary of SOA. (see this & this)

  • Recent survey result tend to show significant increase in adoption of SOA (see this & the original)
  • Expert view is that for hybrid cloud SOA is critical (see this)
  • Also for multi-channel applications – specially mobile applications (see this)
Agile Methodologies

[Answers to question 3&4]

There was no well defined trigger point for agile methodologies – not even the formulation of the manifesto.

  • Though the Agile Manifesto was formulated in 2001, many of the agile methodologies predate the manifesto.
  • There was no immediate hype following the formulation of the manifesto.
  • Agile never appeared in the Gartner Hype Cycle.
The adoption rate slowly climbed over the years. It has been more like the Starfish than the Spider (what is Starfish vs. Spider? Explanation – Short & Long)The growth has been steady and recent survey points to impressive adoption. (see this, this & the original)