It wasn't that long ago that developers had a relatively simple job. They developed applications for a single platform and device, a Windows PC, maybe making slight tweaks for different browsers in the case of web apps. But that's all changed in the last few years with the explosion of devices and operating environments --and it's often left developers and businesses confused on how to proceed.
Todd Anglin, the executive vice president for cross-platform tools and services at app development platform vendor Telerik, says that a developer's life has definitely become more challenging in recent years. "The challenge developers face today is certainly intimidating, particularly when you think that for the last 20 years, developers have been able to more or less get by with a single platform and a single form factor, a Windows PC. Now it's phones, tablets and TVs, and on the horizon cars and all kinds of other things," he told me.
Anglin says developers are trying to feel their way through this shifting development landscape. "I think a lot of developers are still trying to figure out, how do you deal with that disruption. What's the approach. And I would even suggest that beyond the explosion of of new devices and new screens, the other reason apps will continue to explode is that they will find a way into more deeply into business processes," he said.
The evidence suggests that's happening already at many organization: Mobile analyst Jack Gold told me his research indicates that 65 percent of mobile solutions are driven by lines of business.
Anglin says that up until recently, developers and businesses have for the most part been searching for the one right way to build an app. He believes this is the wrong way to look at the problem. "Other than the web, which remains a powerful platform to reach every screen very quickly, developers are beginning to recognize that the conversation should not start with how to build my mobile app," he explained
Instead, he believes the purpose of the app must drive the process. "What I find is when I talk to developers, who have tried in vain to find one-size-fits-all, the solution is they are increasingly coming back and recognizing we need a strategy for building software that lets them build web or hybrid or native when the app calls for it," he said.
Gold says while he sees companies building apps, much like Anglin, he also sees companies struggling to decide where and how to build them. He said HTML5 is not a silver bullet and companies are grappling with development platforms just as Anglin suggests.
Anglin's company Telerik introduced a new product this week that attempts to address this issue. He describes the product as "a platform that gives developers all the UI they need to build apps using web, hybrid, and native across mobile, desktop and in the future any device." Anglin says they they are marrying that platform with back-end cloud services for mobile testing and analytics among others.
Anglin says a security module is also on the way later in 2014 that will help developers build security at the app level and help move it from the realm of the device level. In fact he says, Telerik's position on this is that mobile device management (MDM) is outmoded, particularly in a time of increasing BYOD, but he admits that the final chapter on how to best manage mobile security is still yet to be written.
He says that the core pillar of the platform is that there is no one-size fits all approach for mobile app development, and it's time we moved away from that notion. He says as developers become more comfortable with the idea there isn't a single solution, they'll begin to let the process lead them to the right approach.
"We're standing behind the position that industry needs to mature and as it matures, it needs to embrace a strategy, which can fluidly move between web, hybrid and native development."
He adds, "We are saying the safest long-term investment is to build apps the right way and we are going to give you a platform that lets you build the app the right way based on your requirements."