Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Pat Romanski, Kevin Benedict, Mamoon Yunus, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Mobile IoT, Microsoft Cloud, Wearables

Mobile IoT: Article

Choosing the Right Mobile SDK and Platform for Your Application

Android, iPhone SDK, .NET Compact Framework, AJAX/Web

Kevin Hoffman's Blog

I am currently of the mindset that Android should be considered a wait and see technology. The iPhone SDK sports the best mobile application deployment and purchasing channel on the market, but can be problematic for enterprises and apps requiring high levels of security. Also, there is some risk in building an app that might be rejected. The .NET Compact Framework is a tried and true, proven mobile development framework that provides a relatively easy way to build apps for Windows Mobile devices. It takes some effort to make your Windows Mobile apps look decent, but you get the benefits of a huge community, re-use of your C#/.NET skills, great tools and more.

In the beginning (relatively speaking), there was PalmOS. This was the main vehicle through which application developers created mobile applications. This was due in large part to the fact that PalmOS pretty much dominated the PDA market and was really the first pioneer of the PDA+phone combination (remember when all your friends snickered at you derisively when they got their Palm VII device? ... or maybe that was just my friends.... ).

Now we've got a much broader market, with a lot more options. This is a good thing, because programming for PalmOS sucked. Now we've got mobile devices that run a mobile version of the .NET Framework that can even run a mobile version of SQL Server for the desktop. We've got the iPhone SDK, which is basically a mobile version of Cocoa - making Cocoa/Mac programmers feel right at home when building apps on this device. You've got an elite closed system of RIM application developers. Then you've got people writing mobile web applications with Ajax that work on small footprint devices. And now you've also got the imminent arrival of devices running Android, a Java+XML development environment.

So just how do you figure out whether you should be spending your time, your money, and potentially a lot of risk, on a given mobile development environment? In this blog post I'm taking a look at some of the mobile dev environments and what I think the pros and cons are, and who I think should be taking advantage of those environments.

Android

As of yet, Android is still unproven and unreleased. We've seen demos of Android running on a few devices, and a lot of really fascinating marketing shpew... but nobody has actually gone out to a store and bought an Android device, downloaded an Android application, and run it. As a result, we really don't know what this ecosystem is going to look like. The development environment for Android is Java with templated UI based on XML that borrows a lot of inspiration from declarative UI programming patterns. Everything in the Android space is currently under a rosey umbrella of the "green grass" effect... A lot of people are banking on Android to solve all their problems, regardless of how realistic that assumption might be.

Analysis: Don't spend a dime on Android development that you can't afford to write off as an experimental loss. Obviously if you've got people paying you to write Android apps then you're safe, but if you're thinking about venturing into these uncharted waters and you don't have the capital to throw at it, I'd say avoid it.

iPhone SDK

Obviously the iPhone is a phenomenon. It's been ridiculously successful and, in typical Apple fashion, they have managed to take a device that had singular geek appeal and make it appealing to the general public. Even if they don't own one, pretty much every person on the planet who isn't a luddite and hasn't been living under a rock for the past couple of years knows what an iPhone is and has seen the commercials. The development environment is a slimmed down sandboxed version of Cocoa, so Mac/Objective-C developers should feel immediately at home building iPhone applications. The SDK has been getting progressively better as more features are added to the core phone/iPod touch OS. The App Store is quite possibly one of the single best mobile application deployment channels ever. That said, there are some downsides. Recently, people have been up in arms because Apple seems to be exercising arbitrary authority over the rejection process where the application might overlap functionality that Apple already provides. Also, Apple has banned other applications for questionable network use even though the authors felt as though they were complying with the network regs outlined by the SDK agreement.

Analysis: If you are positive that your idea can't possibly be rejected by Apple, and you can build your application cheaply, then this is a no-brainer you should be jumping all over this potential gold mine of a platform. However, there is a risk that you could spend a crapload of money on building your application only to have it rejected by Apple during the final stages... so that's a risk you need to weigh before beginning the project (possibly talk to an Evangelist to gauge whether they think your app might get rejected or not). If you are building an app as a hobbyist, in your spare time, or to tinker - you couldn't possibly ask for a better platform to get visiblity for your effort and hard work. Also, keep in mind that there are currently a lot of enterprises that don't allow the iPhone to be used by their employees for security concerns... so keep that in mind and do a cross-check on your intended audience before you start building, or you could end up building a killer app that everyone wants and no one can use. Another possible downside - lack of community. Good luck finding public answers to your problems. The NDA for the iPhone SDK has been hindering everyone from tinkerers and hobbyists to full-on commercial application developers and even authors who have been trying to help developers learn this platform. It doesn't look like Apple is going to lift the restrictions on the NDA anytime soon, so if you want to get into this platform, you'd better enjoy being a self-taught lonely programmer.

.NET Compact Framework

The .NET Compact Framework has a remarkably wide install base. It basically shows up (or can be installed) on any Windows Mobile device. Devices that can run the CF include everything from small cell phones that only have numeric keypads to full PDA-type phones with slide out haptic keyboards all the way to niche devices like in-car entertainment/navigation console systems. Who knows, I'm sure there is a refridgerator out there that might be running a version of the .NET CF. Obviously the development environment for the CF is the .NET Framework, so if you've been building desktop and/or server apps using C#, you should be able to jump right onto building mobile applications for CF-carrying devices. You get what is arguably one of the best IDEs available in the industry, a flaming truckload of community where most problems you might encounter have already probably been solved and discussed on blogs or forums.

Analysis: If you are building an application that you want to deploy in an enterprise, you can probably find no better mobile platform/SDK combination. Windows Mobile devices are everywhere, and if you walk around a corporation anywhere in the world, you're going to find a truckload of people walking around with WM devices or Blackberries. Even corporations where people are using Blackberries also probably have complementary coverage for WM and exchange-based devices. The deployment channel for hobbyists and shareware type developers is rough and ugly, but WM devices are not closed, and anybody can plug a device in and install software on them (unlike iPhones). The open-ness of this platform is a huge advantage to commercial and hobbyist developers alike. Even if you're planning on building your app on one of the other platforms, you should consider building a port for this platform as well because of the huge target audience, corporate/enterprise acceptance, rich tooling, and massive public community/support.

Web / AJAX

Most people feel that this is the most risk-free approach. Rather than building an application that targets a specific device or specific OS/platform, people will build web applications that can be viewed from mobile web browsers. The problem with this approach is that, unless you're using an iPhone, most mobile web browsers suck, so you have to try your damndest to overcome the limitation of the browser chrome through which your application is viewed. Also, many mobile platforms have strict JavaScript limitations (including the iPhone), which can inhibit Ajax apps or cause unanticipated side-effects.

Analysis: If you want little to no risk, and the functionality you want to expose can be done in a low-fidelity small-form-factor "lowest common denominator" type format, then you should consider the Web / AJAX approach. Another downside to this approach is that you rely on the speed and quality of the mobile device's connection. Users automatically associate bad experiences with the application they were using at the time, so your app may be the undeserving recipient of customer ire when their 3G connection starts to suck ass and your app appears to stop responding to Ajaxy requests.

To summarize, I am currently of the mindset that Android should be considered a wait and see technology. The iPhone SDK sports the best mobile application deployment and purchasing channel on the market, but can be problematic for enterprises and apps requiring high levels of security. Also, there is some risk in building an app that might be rejected. The .NET Compact Framework is a tried and true, proven mobile development framework that provides a relatively easy way to build apps for Windows Mobile devices. It takes some effort to make your Windows Mobile apps look decent (out of the box CF apps look like ass), but you get the benefits of a huge community, re-use of your C#/.NET skills, great tools and more. Ajax apps are relatively risk-free, but you need a good, live internet connection to use them and they often can't compensate for crappy displays and/or small form factors.

 

More Stories By Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman, editor-in-chief of SYS-CON's iPhone Developer's Journal, has been programming since he was 10 and has written everything from DOS shareware to n-tier, enterprise web applications in VB, C++, Delphi, and C. Hoffman is coauthor of Professional .NET Framework (Wrox Press) and co-author with Robert Foster of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Development Unleashed. He authors The .NET Addict's Blog at .NET Developer's Journal.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Elastifile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Elastifile Cloud File System (ECFS) is software-defined data infrastructure designed for seamless and efficient management of dynamic workloads across heterogeneous environments. Elastifile provides the architecture needed to optimize your hybrid cloud environment, by facilitating efficient...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Launched in 2016, Cloudistics helps anyone bring the power of the cloud to the data center in an easy-to-use, on- premises cloud platform that automatically provides high performance resources for all types of applications: Docke...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Golden Gate University will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 1901, non-profit Golden Gate University (GGU) has been helping adults achieve their professional goals by providing high quality, practice-based undergraduate and graduate educational programs in law, taxation, business and related professions. Many of its courses are taug...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Golden Gate University will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Since 1901, non-profit Golden Gate University (GGU) has been helping adults achieve their professional goals by providing high quality, practice-based undergraduate and graduate educational programs in law, taxation, business and related professions. Many of its courses are taug...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SkyScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SkyScale is a world-class provider of cloud-based, ultra-fast multi-GPU hardware platforms for lease to customers desiring the fastest performance available as a service anywhere in the world. SkyScale builds, configures, and manages dedicated systems strategically located in maximum-security...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DXWorldExpo has been named “Global Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation is the key issue driving the global enterprise IT business. Digital Transformation is most prominent among Global 2000 enterprises and government institutions.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akvelon will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Akvelon is a business and technology consulting firm that specializes in applying cutting-edge technology to problems in fields as diverse as mobile technology, sports technology, finance, and healthcare.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Secure Channels, a cybersecurity firm, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Secure Channels, Inc. offers several products and solutions to its many clients, helping them protect critical data from being compromised and access to computer networks from the unauthorized. The company develops comprehensive data encryption security strategie...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SS...
WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web communications world. The 6th WebRTC Summit continues our tradition of delivering the latest and greatest presentations within the world of WebRTC. Topics include voice calling, video chat, P2P file sharing, and use cases that have already leveraged the power and convenience of WebRTC.
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...