The year 2010 is an exciting time for those of us who have worked in and around the mobile industry since before the, now, decade-old 21st century. Some have referred to this year as "The Year of the Mobile Developer." It's true that, following the creation of frictionless paths to market through Apple's App Store, Google's Android Market, and the other handset or OS app stores, developers and brands alike are pursuing a market previously limited in reach. The options of distribution of applications until recently included carrier decks, handset portals, third-party channels such as Motricity, or even one's own web site.
Carriers once dominated and controlled which applications were allowed to reach eager end users via their portals—picking winners and losers by the weight of their business development and testing processes. Distribution via carriers has been difficult and costly, requiring direct relationships with carriers. Each carrier required a new business development effort and a different set of requirements for OSes and handsets supported, along with a unique testing process. Handset portals also required major effort from business development and also required joining expensive developer programs. The third-party and web-site options for distribution were easier but required individual marketing effort by developers, and the process for users to install downloaded apps on their own was a barrier for widespread adoption. Until recently, these challenges in the business of mobile development limited experimentation and innovation by all but a few hardy souls or the largest brands with the budgets to support it. Enter Apple's App Store.
The Apple App Store not only provided a path to market, but also, a dramatic change in marketing position for developers. Apple established the new industry standard with the "There's an App for That" campaign. Suddenly, instead of choosing a device for its hardware specs, end users considered what they could do with a phone beyond make calls and send text messages. The value of a device, now, has become its ability to run lots of applications. The iPhone didn't initially include an App Store. End users drove this innovation, as is often the case. Early adopters of the iPhone broke open the OS and began to extend it's capabilities with apps, but Apple was quick enough to leverage the iTunes connection for delivering $.99 songs to delivering $.99 applications.
The app store trend didn't and couldn't have happened without the availability of more capable devices. Nokia punctuated the importance of a new class of handset commonly referred to as smartphones in 2007 by calling their advanced handsets "Multimedia Computers." Smartphone as computers has become a more common analogy as smartphones grew in processing and storage capability. The steady increase of smartphone marketshare hit an inflection point in 2008 by crossing the magical 20% penetration rate in both the UK and the US. Historically, any technology mainstreams at the 20% penetration level, which has clearly been demonstrated by experience since 2008. According to Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, the rest of the world (ROW) will reach 20% smartphone penetration in 2012.
It is in this context of explosive growth in smartphone marketshare, a frictionless path to market through device and OS app stores, and a viable business model that the authors take us to the next step—cross-platform development. Cross-platform frameworks are still in the early stages of technology evolution, but the timing is perfect for developers to add cross-platform frameworks to their tool box.
This is especially true for web developers and those serving brands that benefit most from the tradeoffs between wide distribution and deep integration.
In Part 1, the authors provide a survey of the top development and distribution options consisting of mainly handset and OS vendors including the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. Part 2 follows by introducing emerging cross-platform solutions covering both proprietary and open source frameworks with an emphasis on building native applications. And finally in Part 3, the authors address techniques for using HTML to create a native look-and-feel for web applications and services.
A key thread throughout the book is recognition that mobile development is a business endeavor and opportunity. There is a presentation of how-to instructions and code samples that will be useful to those just getting started with mobile development, but the audience that will benefit most from the pragmatic vision of the authors are professional developers and agencies. Certainly, many web developers are pursuing mobile development because it's a good decision to grow their business and if their clients aren't already requesting mobile applications, they will soon.
The book isn't targeted at developers of gaming apps. While gaming is a leading category for all app stores, it's one of those categories that benefits most from deep integration into the OS or device. Cross-platform frameworks aren't likely to be the best solution for games. Productivity apps, branded apps, and some communications services such as social networking apps will benefit from using the tools and techniques covered in the book.
Several of the tools presented in the book are currently leading this emerging category. We are in the early days of cross-platform use on mobile devices. Of the estimated 17 million software developers worldwide, according to Motorola as quoted in Forbes, around 4 million of them are developing for mobile. While Rhodes, Appcelerator, and PhoneGap have been used to deliver applications via the Apple App Store, the total number of developers using these frameworks is in the low six figures. Like the early days of the web, and to some extent, still, experimentation is vital to moving the ecosystem forward. This book is an important contribution to that effort.
Debi Jones Editor In Chief Telefonica Developer Programs
About the Authors
Sarah Allen leads Blazing Cloud, a San Francisco consulting firm that specializes in developing leading-edge mobile and web applications. She is also co-founder and CTO of Mightyverse, a mobile startup focused on helping people communicate across languages and cultures. In both technical and leadership roles, Sarah has been developing commercial software since 1990 when she co-founded CoSA (the Company of Science & Art), which originated After Effects. She began focusing on Internet software as an engineer on Macromedia's Shockwave team in 1995. She led the development of the Shockwave Multiuser Server, and later the Flash Media Server and Flash video. An industry veteran who has also worked at Adobe, Aldus, Apple, and Laszlo Systems, Sarah was named one of the top 25 women of the Web by SF WoW (San Francisco Women of the Web) in 1998.
Vidal Graupera has been developing award-winning mobile applications starting as far back as the Apple Newton in 1993. He founded and ran a successful software company that developed more than a dozen consumer applications on a variety of mobile platforms over a period of ten years. Vidal holds engineering degrees from Carnegie Melon University and the University of Southern CA, and an MBA from Santa Clara University. Vidal currently consults with clients on developing web and mobile applications.
Personal Website: www.vidalgraupera.com
Website: blazingcloud.net Personal Blog: www.macboypro.com
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