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Mobile future may belong to Web apps

Philosophies around mobile app development may be evolving.

A few variables are at play in the mobile application space, determining what types of mobile content companies distribute. There are multiple operating systems for businesses to choose from, with Android and iOS leading the pack, and two distinct ways to create applications for these platforms.The choice between native and hybrid apps comes down to the philosophical debate about whether it is better to stick to an operating system's native language or code once and access it through a browser. Determining which approach will win out is important for nearly all IT leaders today, as mobile devices have become a prime conduit for corporate content.

Compare and contrast
A recent Software Development Times column by Forrester analyst Michael Facemire focused on the differences in approach and the way the market may be going. Facemire clarified that there is currently no absolute best approach to app development and in some situations, it may be advantageous to use one or the other. He also hinted that companies can mix and match elements of these tactics and bolt some proprietary code onto Web app elements. That said, there are some general distinguishing factors that help professionals pick between Web and native application development approaches when setting out their long-term mobile plans.

Facemire stated that apps created for specific devices have the advantages of direct interaction with the hardware in question - but are hard to maintain. He noted that when it is time to add a new platform, developers have to pay up again. This, Facemire specified, is the main force behind the rise of the Web app, given the fact that it is economical and fast to work with Web code. Another difference is the process of releasing software. Web apps are simply placed into the environment, while native applications need to pass approval processes from gatekeepers and get into their platforms' respective apps stores.

These comparisons led Facemire to the conclusion that the mobile app market may be going the same way as desktop PC development. That means an early history with more native programming, followed by a period of maturity defined by Web apps. How long will it take for this transition to sweep industries? Facemire stated the Forrester opinion predicts a gradual expansion of Web use over the next five years. Of course, that timeline could be significantly shorter - what if a third platform challenges Android and iOS? That would mean more systems to develop for and more incentive to make flexible software.

Mobile in the office
Of course, app development now applies to areas that may not have been traditionally associated with it. As TechRadar contributor David Langhorn recently indicated, employees in offices are not just used to working with many different devices and operating systems - they are demanding this right. Workers want to bring their phones from home and, increasingly, expect the same thing concerning tablets. This means creating a cross-platform app that works on many operating systems and screen sizes is more than a consumer concern. Applications that never leave the walls of an office may have these same requirements.

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