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App Development: IT's New Mobile Priority

App development is the next frontier for organizations in a rapidly mobilizing world. What's your strategy?

Over the past few years, the conversation around mobile tended to center on devices: how to handle personal vs. corporate-issued machines, how to manage access and protect sensitive information, and how to create and enforce policies to deal with the whole mess.

While these issues haven’t disappeared, a new priority is emerging for IT: how to take advantage of an increasingly mobile world. One way is via applications, including custom development.

Native custom mobile application development is a top priority for IT. That’s according to the InformationWeek 2013 Mobile Application Development survey, which had 688 business technology respondents. Forty-one percent of respondents already have custom mobile apps in place and will develop more. An additional 24% don’t have custom mobile apps, but plan to develop them over the next 12 months.

As you might guess, Android and iOS are the target platforms of choice. Android phone tops the list; this platform is being targeted by 78% of respondents that have or are planning to develop apps. 73% are targeting the iPad and iPhone. While 68% are looking at Android tablets, that’s a 15% increase over 2012, the largest jump of any platform in the survey.

Windows Phone 7.x and 8 comes in at 28%. BlackBerry 10 OS registers an anemic 10%.

Once an organization decides to develop mobile apps, it has to make some important choices, including whether to write a native app or a variant of a mobile-optimized browser app. Respondents recognize the trade-offs inherent in these choices, which is illustrated in how respondents evaluated several development techniques based on 10 criteria.

For instance, when it comes to performance, 85% cited native mobile apps as best. Native apps also won handily for security and control (71%) and usability (63%).

Clearly then, native is the best approach, right? Maybe if you’re building a gaming app from scratch, but not necessarily if want a productivity app that has to work with other business applications and legacy data stores.

For example, on the criterion of integration with existing back-end systems, the generic browser app got the highest response at 32%. Generic browser apps and mobile-optimized browser apps also won out for supportability, ease of speed and development, and ease and speed of deployment.

One reason is that many companies have been building Web apps for a long time. They either have experienced in-house developers or can tap a robust market of third-party developers. Mobile development poses a new set of challenges. According to respondents, complex code development is their biggest challenge when it comes to mobile, followed by cross-platform compatibility and by finding or nurturing expertise.

While these challenges are significant, they aren’t insurmountable, and organizations must be ready to engage with a rapidly mobilizing world. As the report’s author Kurt Marko writes “Mobile is changing the way people access and share information in ways that will affect every business. It’s far too major and strategic a shift to ignore or farm out. Mobilizing your business requires internal capability to do well.”

In other words, mobility is here and its importance to business is only going to grow. For more details and analysis, see the report “Building a Mobile Business Mindset.” The report, including 30 charts of survey responses, is free with registration.

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Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
12/6/2013 | 7:13:11 PM
web apps can work too
Web apps can often work just as well as native apps, particularly when the native apps in question are really just a way to attach specific functionality to a button or two. Companies often don't go through the trouble of making very well designed native apps or taking advantage of what native apps can do that web apps don't do very well.
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