Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Shelly Palmer, Yeshim Deniz, Liz McMillan, Ed Featherston, Carmen Gonzalez

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
New competitors, disruptive technologies, and growing expectations are pushing every business to both adopt and deliver new digital services. This ‘Digital Transformation’ demands rapid delivery and continuous iteration of new competitive services via multiple channels, which in turn demands new service delivery techniques – including DevOps. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 20th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, panelists examined how DevOps helps to meet the de...
No hype cycles or predictions of zillions of things here. IoT is big. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, Associate Partner at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data analytics considerations, edge-to-cloud tec...
"When we talk about cloud without compromise what we're talking about is that when people think about 'I need the flexibility of the cloud' - it's the ability to create applications and run them in a cloud environment that's far more flexible,” explained Matthew Finnie, CTO of Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
IoT solutions exploit operational data generated by Internet-connected smart “things” for the purpose of gaining operational insight and producing “better outcomes” (for example, create new business models, eliminate unscheduled maintenance, etc.). The explosive proliferation of IoT solutions will result in an exponential growth in the volume of IoT data, precipitating significant Information Governance issues: who owns the IoT data, what are the rights/duties of IoT solutions adopters towards t...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
The Internet giants are fully embracing AI. All the services they offer to their customers are aimed at drawing a map of the world with the data they get. The AIs from these companies are used to build disruptive approaches that cannot be used by established enterprises, which are threatened by these disruptions. However, most leaders underestimate the effect this will have on their businesses. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rene Buest, Director Market Research & Technology Evangelism at Ara...
When growing capacity and power in the data center, the architectural trade-offs between server scale-up vs. scale-out continue to be debated. Both approaches are valid: scale-out adds multiple, smaller servers running in a distributed computing model, while scale-up adds fewer, more powerful servers that are capable of running larger workloads. It’s worth noting that there are additional, unique advantages that scale-up architectures offer. One big advantage is large memory and compute capacity...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM has been named “Diamond Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st Cloud Expo, which will take place on October 31 through November 2nd 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Lachapelle, CEO of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), provided an overview of various initiatives to certify the security of connected devices and future trends in ensuring public trust of IoT. Eric Lachapelle is the Chief Executive Officer of the Professional Evaluation and Certification Board (PECB), an international certification body. His role is to help companies and individuals to achieve professional, accredited and worldwide re...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, neural networks. We’re in the midst of a wave of excitement around AI such as hasn’t been seen for a few decades. But those previous periods of inflated expectations led to troughs of disappointment. Will this time be different? Most likely. Applications of AI such as predictive analytics are already decreasing costs and improving reliability of industrial machinery. Furthermore, the funding and research going into AI now comes from a wide range of com...
Multiple data types are pouring into IoT deployments. Data is coming in small packages as well as enormous files and data streams of many sizes. Widespread use of mobile devices adds to the total. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists looked at the tools and environments that are being put to use in IoT deployments, as well as the team skills a modern enterprise IT shop needs to keep things running, get a handle on all this data, and deliver...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. 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 devic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy named "Bronze Sponsor" of 21st International Cloud Expo which will take place October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud com...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st Int\ernational Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to focus on the core of their ...
We build IoT infrastructure products - when you have to integrate different devices, different systems and cloud you have to build an application to do that but we eliminate the need to build an application. Our products can integrate any device, any system, any cloud regardless of protocol," explained Peter Jung, Chief Product Officer at Pulzze Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA
SYS-CON Events announced today that GrapeUp, the leading provider of rapid product development at the speed of business, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company, specialized in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market acr...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ayehu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on October 31 - November 2, 2017 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara California. Ayehu provides IT Process Automation & Orchestration solutions for IT and Security professionals to identify and resolve critical incidents and enable rapid containment, eradication, and recovery from cyber security breaches. Ayehu provides customers greater control over IT infras...