Category Archives: Cross-Platform Mobile Application Development Tools

Cross-Platform Mobile Application Development Tools: Interest and Capability Expected to Grow

Cross-platform development tools for mobile applications will become more capable
through 2012, and increasingly popular through 2015.


Cross-platform mobile development tools will become more numerous, more capable and more popular in the near term. Architects, developers and strategists should consider such tools to deal with the growing challenge of supporting mobile applications on several platforms.

Key Findings
  • Cross-platform mobile application development tools will become more numerous and more capable, driving a slow shift from platform-specific to platform independent application development technologies.
  • Until mobile platforms start to consolidate, the increasing demand for mobile
    applications will require cross-platform tools to manage the cost of addressing
    multiple platforms.
  • New Web standards will enable mobile Web technology to address a wider range of mobile applications needing features such as offline operations and persistent data.
  • Consider cross-platform tools for new mobile applications that must address two or more platforms.
  • Mobile Web technology will evolve into a more flexible, capable and broadly
    available cross-platform mobile development tool. Official standards will take
    several years to become established, but developers may be able to adopt some elements of the technology, as many platforms will implement parts of the standards before they are finalized.

What You Need to Know
The proportion of mobile applications that are developed using cross-platform tools will grow through 2012, as more tools become available and all tools become more
sophisticated. All mobile application developers should consider such tools to maximize their addressable markets and provide some degree of insulation from the mobile platform wars.

Mobile application development is important for corporations delivering applications to
their employees, and for the growing band of developers wanting to profit from mobile
application stores. All mobile developers face a difficult trade-off between application
sophistication and audience size. If they develop for a specific platform using its native tools, they can create excellent functionality, but the application will be limited to one platform or even specific device models within that platform. In 2009, cross-platform mobile tools offered a much greater range of target devices, but often at the cost of reduced functionality.
However, the options available to developers are increasing with the emergence of more and better cross-platform mobile tools. Such tools abstract many aspects of native platform APIs, such as the user interface, tasking, networking, handset services and persistent storage. Such abstractions are seldom perfect or complete; despite this, they are important because they offer mobile developers more flexibility in the trade-off between functionality and audience size. Several of these tools also extend the native platform with support for features such as rich media and enhanced interfaces, allowing more compelling applications.
Adobe Flash Player
Summary: Flash Lite is Adobe’s current mobile subset of Adobe Flash Player (Flash
Player). Starting in 2010, Flash Lite will be replaced by two Flash Player versions for
mobile devices. Adobe Flash Player 10.1 (Flash Player 10.1) will provide a PC-compatible Flash experience on high-end devices, such as smartphones and Web tablets, with processor speeds exceeding around 600MHz. Flash Player 10.1 is intended to provide access to mobile device APIs such as touchscreens and accelerometers. Flash Lite will continue to be available on lower-end devices to provide a subset of Flash Player capability.
Platforms: In 2011, Flash Player 10.2 is available on Windows, Macintosh and Linux devices; Flash Lite is available on smartphones and some enhanced phones. Application Types: Rich Internet applications.
Target Market: Adobe’s goal for Flash Player 10.1 is for it to run on about 50% of
smartphones, which would equate to over 300 million Flash-capable devices shipped in
2012, although the number that actually have Flash Player installed could be rather
smaller, perhaps 200 million. Approximately 75% of handsets shipped are Flash-Lite capable, but fewer handsets ship with Flash Lite preinstalled.
Adobe AIR
Summary: Adobe AIR provides a superset of Flash functionality and runs rich Internet
applications on the desktop, rather than in a browser. AIR is available on desktop
systems, and Adobe plans to develop a mobile version for some platforms starting with Android in 2010, and extending to other platforms in 2011.
Platforms: Similar to Flash Player 10.2.
Application Types: A broader range of mobile applications than Flash.
Target Market: We expect AIR to be runnable on approximately the same target devices as Flash Player 10.2 — i.e., 50% of smartphones.
Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME)
Summary: Java ME is the most mature cross-platform mobile environment. Two basic
versions of Java ME are available:

  • Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC)/Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) supports basic and low-end enhanced phones.
  • Connected Device Configuration (CDC) supports high-end enhanced phones,
    smartphones and consumer devices .

A Lightweight User Interface Toolkit (LWUIT) consisting of code and tools was released in 2008 to address the challenges of creating portable mobile user interfaces on mass market devices. Java ME is available on a very wide range of devices, but does not
entirely solve portability problems because of individual device variations and the optional Java packages that may not be installed on all devices. As Java ME has matured, the baseline capability of the environment has continued to grow. Influential devices, such as BlackBerry, use Java as their primary development environment.
Java ME is now an open-source technology controlled by the Java community process
(JCP), which is dominated by mobile industry representatives such as network operators and handset manufacturers; therefore, its evolution is somewhat biased by these industry representatives’ concerns.
Platforms: Mobile handsets and consumer electronics.
Application Types: A very wide range of applications can be developed in Java ME. The platform is typically used in situations where the application complexity demands client side code and where the application must run on the widest possible range of handsets. Java ME applications include games, mobile payment, utilities and media applications.
Target Market: Various versions of Java ME are available on approximately 80% of mobile devices, which indicates that shipments could be more than 1.2 billion units a year by 2012.
Summary: JavaFX is a rich application development tool that is layered on Java ME. A
desktop version is already available; a mobile version was demonstrated on some
platforms in 2009 and is intended to run on handsets with 200MHz or faster processors. JavaFX is immature and has very limited support in the mobile marketplace; its success is uncertain. Even in optimistic scenarios, we don’t see significant take up occurring before 2012.
Application Type: Rich Internet applications and general-purpose applications if Java ME features are used.
Platforms: Windows; Mac OS X, Linux PCs in 2009; mobile handsets starting in 2010.
Target Market: We estimate the proportion of mobile devices capable of running JavaFX to be approximately 40% of total shipments; and if we assume modest success with 30% of potential handsets having JavaFX installed, the number would be approximately 200 million units a year by 2012. Because JavaFX has very limited developer/operator and handset manufacturer acceptance, the installed base is likely to be much smaller than the addressable market.
Summary. Microsoft Silverlight is a general-purpose environment with a strong set of
features for media such as video, graphics and animation, which competes with Adobe
Flash and Adobe Air. Mobile Silverlight will be a subset of desktop Silverlight, and has
been announced (but not delivered) for Windows Mobile and Nokia S60 platforms. No firm release date for mobile Silverlight has been announced, so enterprises should not make plans for the technology at this time.
Platforms: Windows PCs, mobile versions are planned only for Windows Mobile, Moblin
and Symbian.
Application Types: Rich Internet applications.
Target Devices: Silverlight-capable devices will likely include all Windows mobile handsets plus a proportion of the high-end S60 handsets. This could total more than 200 million handsets a year shipped by 2012 (assuming the product is released by then).
Summary: Qt is a mature cross-platform development framework and toolkit that Nokia acquired through its purchase of Trolltech in 2008. Qt applications are written in C++ so can leverage mainstream development skills. A new member of the Qt technology family, known as Qt Markup Language (QML), likely will be released in 1H10. QML is a declarative user interface development language that will make Qt accessible to a wider population of Web developers. Qt abstracts a wide range of operating system services, including 2D and 3D graphics, tasking, networking, threading and inter application communications. Qt will become the preferred Symbian and Maemo development framework for native applications, and the latest version of Qt will be part of open Symbian in 2H10. Although Qt is a powerful tool, it has been a relatively niche application. We estimate the worldwide mobile Qt developer population in 2009 was only a few thousand individuals. We expect Nokia will deliver improved mobile Qt tools in 2010, and Qt will become a de facto standard for Ovi application developers.
Platforms: Windows PC, Mac OS X, Linux, Windows CE, Windows Mobile, Open Symbian, and Maemo.
Application Types: Qt is a rich and flexible environment that has been used to develop a wide range of applications — for example, from KDE and Google Earth to embedded
graphical applications in consumer electronics.
Target Market: In mobile terms, Symbian, Maemo and Windows Mobile are viable Qt
mobile targets. More than 100 million handsets shipped in 2009, and more than 350
million are expected to ship in 2012.
Enhanced Mobile Web
Summary: The Web was originally designed for connected applications with limited
processing being carried out on the client. However, proprietary browser extensions, such as Google Gears, already support offline Web applications, persistent storage and multitasking to make applications more responsive. The latest draft of HTML 5 from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) also proposes extensions for offline Web applications, including persistent storage, an embedded SQL database inside the browser, server initiated events, enhanced JavaScript, and an improved user experience, all of which would be very valuable to mobile developers. Standards are unlikely to be formalized before 2015 (if then), although companies such as Google, Research In Motion and Opera are strong supporters of such Web extensions and are already adopting them. Mobile browsers based on the latest WebKit code are likely to exploit pre standard HTML 5 features. Improvements to offline mobile Web technology will also benefit related technologies such as widgets (installable Web applications). We believe a future enhanced mobile Web standard will be attractive to a large number of developers as a standards compliant alternative to tools such as AIR, JavaFX and Silverlight.
Application Types: In 1H09, most smartphones supported Ajax browsers and could deliver simple Web functionality, such as forms and media. The HTML 5 standard, combined with JavaScript extensions for multitasking, would enable future Web applications to support all six styles of mobile architecture and to create a much richer range of applications.
Target Market: We expect that a future enhanced mobile Web platform will be available on all smartphones, where license conditions permit, and on a proportion of high-end enhanced handsets. Prerelease HTML 5 features are already being deployed and could be shipped on more than 400 million handsets a year in 2012. However, the absence of formal standards implies significant fragmentation through 2015, and possibly beyond.
Other Tools
The platform-independent tools described in this research were selected because we
believe they will be important or interesting to our clients. Such lists are invariably
incomplete. A selection of other tools that are more niche, and that may be of interest to some developers, include:

  • Python — a popular and very powerful open-source scripting and application
    development language available on Windows, Linux and a number of mobile
    platforms, including a port by Nokia for the S60 platform. Mobile Python has gained very little traction to date. It will likely grow in importance as it is extended to access handset-specific APIs and features, although the lack of a single mobile Python standard implies inconsistent implementations and portability issues. Python may also gain some traction in Linux-based netbooks. However, interpreted languages like Python may impact mobile battery life and may be best for prototyping, rather than production, systems.
  • Ruby — another very popular high-level Web application development language, a subset of which has been used as the basis of Rhomobile Rhodes, a platform independent mobile application development tool that supports iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and Symbian. As with Python, we expect that performance issues may be a challenge, as well as some strategic risk, because the product is available only from one small vendor.

Various platform-independent versions of Basic are available for mobile development.
Examples include NS Basic and tools such as Mobile Basic, which implement a Basic
environment in Java ME. Although platform-specific Basic such as Visual Basic for
Windows Mobile have been popular, platform-independent Basic has gained little traction among mobile developers.
A number of proprietary tools have emerged from companies that are attempting to make mobile application development simpler or faster by tool technology and also integration with App Store submission workflows. Selected examples include:

  • Appcelerator — multiplatform application development using JavaScript APIs with proprietary extensions.
  • Mobil On Services "BuildAnApp" — hosted menu-driven application generator for simple applications.
  • MotherApp — HTML-like programming and application generation for multiple
  • Genuitec’s MobiOne — an Eclipse-based mobile Web integrated development
    environment for HTML 5/Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)/JavaScript mobile

Such tools should generally be treated as tactical decisions, because they may lock
developers into small companies, proprietary technologies or inappropriate business
Corporate developers can also consider a range of mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) tools, many of which are packages of technology rather than simple development tools. A typical MEAP includes middleware, development tools, server-side replication, simple security, simple software distribution and management. Many MEAP products support multiple platforms and are usually intended for corporate applications. MEAPs commonly include prebuilt applications and integration with popular packages, such as SAP. Other examples include those from Antenna Software, Sybase, Syclo, Spring Wireless and Pyxis Mobile.

Recommended Reading
"Magic Quadrant for Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms"
"Magic Quadrant for Mobile Consumer Application Platforms"
"Mobile Architectures 2009 Through 2012: A Trend Toward Thin"

Strategic Planning Assumption(s)
By 2013, new HTML standards will be widely deployed in mobile browsers, allowing Web applications to manage persistent, structured data.

Well, this report includes several misleading statement.  It states that Silverlight runs only on windows, in fact it runs on: Apple Mac and Windows.  In reality it could be stated that Silverlight also run on Linux, but in this case using the Novel  implementation of Silverlight (it is open source) for Linux called Monlight/(Mono platform).  This is significant from development and maintenance, because the same code that is used for the Windows and Mac desktop could be used for the Linux desktop.. In addition same code that is used on the Win server could be deployed to a Linux server if required.  As for the mobile version of Silverlight, it is planned for Microsoft Mobile in Q3, Symbian (Nokia) in 2010 (not sure when)

Source: GR