Thanks to BYOD, app deployment has become substantially more complicated. Sencha's HTML5 tools aim to restore order.
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As analysts have made clear in assessing Windows 8's progress, devices are only as useful as the apps they run. With office duties now routinely fragmented across iPads, Windows Phones, Android tablets, BlackBerrys, PCs and other devices, maintaining a cohesive workplace is more complicated than ever. App builders can focus on only so many programming languages, after all, making it challenging for IT to deliver critical apps throughout such mixed environments.
With its updated HTML5 development tools, released on Wednesday, Sencha thinks it can help. By focusing on browser-based deployments instead of standalone native apps, the products are intended to let programmers write a single set of code that's indifferent to the device and operating system on which it runs.
Although Android and iOS continue to dominate developers' attention, HTML5 has become a popular development platform, thanks largely to the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend. Employees aren't going to stop using their chosen devices to work, so IT needs a method to manage app deployment across different OSes. With analysts like Gartner predicting that HTML5-based apps will gradually come to rival the native variety, approaches such as Sencha's aim to help answer the programming challenge.
Sencha also released a beta version of Touch 2.2, its mobility-oriented framework. Improvements include support for Internet Explorer 10 as well as performance and task management tweaks. Finally, the company also announced the Sencha Touch Bundle, which includes Architect, Touch and various tools and plug-ins.
Sencha marketing VP Paul Kopacki is enthusiastic about the products' support for Internet Explorer 10. "It's the first Internet Explorer browser we've been excited about in a long time," he said in an interview, nothing that although Sencha focuses on making HTML5 development easier, it also produces Mobile Packager, which lets HTML5 projects be repackaged as native apps.
Kopacki said Sencha tools are currently used by more than 2 million developers and over 50% of the Fortune 100. This roster includes Xero, a New Zealand-based Web development shop that focuses on accounting software. In an interview, Xero CTO Craig Walker said that native apps "would have been a big commitment" but that HTML5 "makes it easy to pick up a project and run with it." He noted that the platform allowed Xero to target multiple devices without adding staff.
Walker also praised Sencha's tools for simplifying the development process, saying the frameworks allow developers to focus on building programs instead of worrying about browser issues, such as layout.
HTML5 continues to generate fans and implement app-like technologies such as WebRTC, which essentially turns browsers into video chat endpoints. Nonetheless, native apps remain more popular and satisfying for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that most browser-based apps require Internet access to be useful. Multi-OS environments can also be addressed through other options, such as IBM's Worklight.
Even so, for many developers, Sencha's tools will be worth a look, not only for the flexibility and simplicity they advertise but also because of their inclusive licensing terms; whereas some competing products costs thousands of dollars per license, Sencha has released Touch 2.2 for free, an offer that will continue after the beta period ends, and has priced Ext JS 4.2, Architect 2.2 and the Touch Bundle at $329, $399 and $695, respectively.
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