Welcome!

Wireless Authors: Elizabeth White, Nikita Ivanov, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Wireless, Symbian, AJAX & REA, iPhone

Wireless: Blog Feed Post

Building Smartphone Apps

The Alternatives

Smartphone apps are the most exciting trend in computing since the advent of web apps.  How do you as a developer take advantage of this?  More generally, how do you do that and get maximum reach for your app across the diversity of smartphones out there.  If you’re writing a consumer app you can get away with just targeting the iPhone (albeit missing some market opportunity).  If you’re writing a business app you need to be able to reach all the users in the enterprise.   There just are no homogeneous mobile device environments in any place but the smallest mom and pop shops now.

There are in fact several high level alternatives, but probably only one practical one at a high level.  Let’s start with the most seemingly obvious one:

Write natively in each underlying operating system’s SDK

For example, write your app in Objective C for the iPhone. Write it again for the BlackBerry in RIM’s slightly funky Java variant. Write it yet again for Android in their set of Java SDKs. Code it again in C# for Windows Mobile. And maybe get some reuse when you hack out a Symbian version for Nokia’s smartphones, popular in Europe and Asia.

I’ll actually accept that you might be able to write an app once with the native SDKs and languages for this set of smartphones. But I’ve postulated a theory a while back (when running backend and browser engineering at Good) that I’ll call Blum’s Law of smartphone development:

Businesses cannot maintain enterprise apps written individually for more than three smartphone operating systems past a 1.0 release

I’ll welcome comments that mention counterexamples to this rule.  If you’re planning long term life for your app to address all your users, this is probably not a practical option.

Use First Generation “Enterprise Mobility Platforms”

There have of course been earlier approaches to the diversity of mobile operating systems. They emerged around ten years ago from the likes of Sybase, Antenna, Dexterra, Pyxis, Vaultus, Plusmo and others. None of them got much more than a few dozen customers and much more than tens of millions of revenue. Although big corporations got benefit from them, they never came close to becoming ubiquitous enterprise infrastructure.

They all share a remarkably similar approach and set of components. Generally these are:

  • an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) - design the screens for the app in a desktop editing environment generally with some kind of WYSIWYG preview.  And (for some) describe the connections to a backend data source.
  • a “runner” or “interpreter” on the device.  This runner is built by the vendor for each device operating system. It generally included featurephone operating systems including J2ME and BREW.
  • sync server - Sometimes this is general purpose (such as Sybase).   Sometimes this is just common code shared among “backend connection server apps” (such as Antenna)

When these technologies first appeared there was nothing wrong with this approach.   It allowed apps to run in fairly forbiddingly limited environments such as those on most featurephones.  With the advent of modern highly powerful smartphones the interpreter approach to save space wasn’t really necessary anymore. But what sealed these technologies irrelevance was the App Store ban on interpreters. Instead of a “platform” that involved an interpreter to which apps are sent, a radically different approach was called for.

Smartphone App Framework

Last year we released the first version (0.1) of Rhodes calling it a “smartphone app framework”.  The biggest difference is that the framework enables you to build native smartphone apps indistinguishable from what you might do with the underlying SDK.  You can think of the framework as a library of code that you link into your app,  a set of directory conventions for where you put your files and scripts to build the app.   But, more excitingly,  you can write your whole interface in HTML, the most widely known development technology in history.  But you still end up with a NATIVE app that looks native and takes advantage of device capabilities.

Since then this has become a huge category with many entrants.   These include WidgetPad, Appcelerator, QuickConnect, Ansca Corona, and PhoneGap.  These frameworks are all a big step forward in productivity and finally allow the law that I cited above to be violated.   They all also follow the practice of allowing you to write your interface in HTML.   If you don’t need the synchronized data offered by Rhodes, the ability to have a full-on programming language (the first mobile Ruby for every smartphone) or the availability of Rhodes for all smartphones, each of these products is a good option. My personal favorite would be PhoneGap, but they are all a huge step above writing in native SDKs and languages.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Adam Blum

Adam Blum is CEO of Rhomobile. He came from Good Technology and while spending millions on enterprise mobile application development he realized there was a need for a framework for enterprises to build mobile applications easily and cost-effectively empower their workforce without training their programmers to learn different programming languages and building apps from scratch. He has spoken at Interop in Las Vegas and at Ruby events all over the world.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sean Lorenz, Technical Product Manager for Xively at LogMeIn, demonstrated how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.