Mobile technology is revolutionizing the way we shop, work and stay informed. In the U.S. nearly every adult now has a mobile phone, and almost one in three has a smart phone—devices almost as powerful as traditional laptops. This explosive growth is being repeated in many other countries.
The powerful capabilities of today’s mobile devices provide fertile ground for countless exciting applications. Although demand is highest for consumer apps, new business applications are also emerging constantly to allow employees and partners to work more productively. For any enterprise that wants to engage, inform and assist its customers or employees, mobile applications create opportunities that are impossible to ignore.
While many companies would love to reach a mobile audience, CIOs are often uncertain about how to proceed in this incredibly dynamic environment. The important decisions companies have to make: the development architecture that provides the foundation for a mobile application. Do you choose native development, a cross-mobile platform, or a mobile web solution? Each approach has its strengths, weaknesses and appropriate use cases—how do you sort through the different parameters to make the right choice? There’s also a variety of development frameworks and tools for each approach. How do you choose the right one?
The Key Technology Choices for Mobile Applications
While many technology options are available for mobile applications development, it’s possible to simplify the lay of the land. Mobile applications can be developed in three fundamental ways:
- Native Apps – Build the application in its native code to run on a specific device and operating system. The app is downloaded from an app store and resides on the device.
- Cross-Platform Apps – Build the application once using a cross-platform framework and run it on multiple mobile platforms (after fine-tuning for each platform). It’s also downloaded from an app store and resides on the device.
- Mobile Web Apps – Build the application to run over the internet from a central server, from where it can be accessed by any device with a web browser.
A Decision Framework for Selecting the Right Technology
Here are some key questions to address, for identifying the right technology framework:
- Who will use the app?
- What type of experience do users expect?
- What functionality is required?
- How important is multi-platform compatibility?
- Does the app need to run offline or when the connection is bad?
- Are there industry-specific requirements?
- How much time do you have to build the app?
- Does your staff have the necessary skill sets?
- What’s the total cost of ownership?
- How soon do you need new device or OS features?
Depending on your industry and business requirements, you need to consider a number of factors in order to identify the right technology framework. You need to understand the purpose of the application, who the users are, what capabilities they need, and what type of experience they expect. Other factors include security, portability to run the application across multiple platforms, and of course cost.
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