Thursday, July 14, 2011

Building Mobile Applications Using Web Technologies

Most of the IT companies have large development teams that focus primarily on web technologies. These teams are ultra smart and efficient in building web based applications. However, with the advent of mobile, more and more clients are demanding and investing in mobile applications development also.

There are number of mobile platforms choices available to a user. Therefore, most of the times, clients demand for cross platform compatibility. Of course, all the mobile platforms provide developer SDK to build native applications. But with so many platforms, the real challenge, for the IT organizations, is to perfect all of them.

It does not make sense for the large IT organizations to create platform specific teams – the overhead will be huge. And, it does not make sense for the client to approach different vendors to develop applications that run on multiple platforms. It, therefore, makes sense to develop mobile applications leveraging the existing web technology know-how in the organization.

This is a win-win situation for all the parties. IT companies can use their existing pool of developers without getting them trained on specific platforms. Clients can continue working with their existing IT vendors without seeking out for small time mobile application development shops.

The very first thing is to get the client’s buy-in on the choice of application type – native vs hybrid vs web.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages:

Almost Instant
Almost Instant to Slow
Depends where the content is served from – Local Vs Web
Fast to Slow
Depends on Network
Offline Mode
For local content only
Fast – click an icon
Fast – click an icon
Requires the user to open the browser and type the web address
Hardware API Access
Full Access
Full Access
Restricted to Limited
Sell on App Store
Access could be sold to the user but the process is not as seamless as 1-click download from the app store.

If you plan developing a native application

Appcelerator Titanium Development Platform: Titanium makes cross-platform native application development easy. A free and open source application development platform, Titanium lets you create native mobile, tablet and desktop application experiences using existing web skills like Javascript, HTML, CSS, Python, Ruby, and PHP.


If you plan developing a Hybrid application with a native wrapper for multiple platforms

Web applications do not get full access to the device API. Phonegap bridges this gap by allowing developers to author native applications with web technologies and provide access to device APIs and app store.

Phonegap allows to package Sencha Touch code and resources into a binary app – ready to distribute to Apple, Android, Palm, Symbian, and BlackBerry devices.

If you plan developing a web based application

Sencha Touch: Sencha Touch allows you to develop mobile web apps that look and feel native on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry touch devices.

jQuery Mobile: jQuery mobile framework takes the "write less, do more" mantra to the next level: Instead of writing unique apps for each mobile device or OS, the jQuery mobile framework will allow you to design a single highly branded and customized web application that will work on all popular smartphone and tablet platforms.

But keep in mind: Web apps do not get full access to the device API.


Further reading 

Here is a great discussion between Phonegap Vs Appcelerator

Here is a wonderful presentation on Native vs Hybrid vs Web:


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