9 Challenges To Your Mobile App Strategy

Mobile application development will test many IT teams as they deal with everything from mobile context to Google Glass-like displays.

Jeffrey Hammond, Contributor

April 30, 2013

4 Min Read

5. Bigger -- And Smaller -- Touch Devices, And Adaptive UIs.

Today, most app developers prioritize a few popular devices, such as the iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy S III and the iPad. But cherry picking the most popular devices will become more of a challenge as device types and platforms proliferate. Google and Apple already support tablets of different sizes and, with Windows 8 now shipping, developers can expect to find a whole range of larger touch-sensitive devices, such as Hewlett-Packard's Envy series. But device surfaces will grow beyond specialized devices as the cost of multi-touch monitors falls -- to the point where touchwall computing becomes broadly available. Developers will need to scale their user interfaces, because an 84-inch experience is very different from a 4-inch experience.

6. Mobile Apps Become Pluggable Mobile Services.

Platform vendors such as Apple and Google are offering more platform-specific services that developers can leverage. Apple Passbook and Google Wallet are already established, but other examples such as Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 hubs and the Blackberry 10 "Peek" and "Flow" user interface further erode the distinction between a mobile platform and the apps that run on it. Over the next few years it will become more difficult to tell where the mobile platform services end and the third-party app begins. Expect mobile platform providers to relentlessly push toward device-integrated, client-side services instead of standalone mobile apps, because platform providers force developers to tailor apps to their unique platform and APIs.

7. Wearables, Connectables And Local Networks.

Simple, first-generation wearables such as the Nike+ FuelBand and Fitbit will give way to something much more practical: internal biomedical instruments like pacemakers or insulin pumps. Imagine shoes that turn steps into power that can recharge devices, and golf clubs that provide swing telemetry that can help a player improve their game. Connectable home alarm systems, automobiles and scales all will provide data that can be viewed on a mobile phone or tablet, turning it into a remote control for an Internet of things. Client-side developers will need to release updates for these connected devices faster than ever to dynamically add support for new devices in the extended local network.

8. Hybrid Application Model.

With each release, popular mobile operating systems get better at supporting HTML5 and its attendant APIs. That capability will let companies reuse more code across multiple devices, which will be important in keeping app development costs down amid the proliferation of connected devices and form factors. Supporting native development on three or more mobile platforms is prohibitively expensive, and it's difficult to support feature development in parallel across multiple code bases.

As a result, more organizations will turn to Web technologies with a centralized code base for core components of their connected applications. That centralized code is likely to be a combination of HTML, JavaScript and CSS, because the vast majority of devices will support it. Much of this HTML5 will be delivered as hybrid apps, which mix HTML code into a native container and use native code for navigation and platform specific integration. These hybrid apps will get more sophisticated and capable as a result. We're already seeing compelling enterprise applications built with the hybrid approach, and even consumer apps built as hybrids are showing up as editor's choices and with 4+ star ratings.

9. Cloud-Powered Development.

The construction of modern applications will move onto the public cloud and public devices, because the elasticity of services such as Amazon, Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform mesh nicely with the unpredictable demand that mobile apps exact on server-side infrastructure. With the move to a public cloud, the traditional organizational model that separates development from IT operations will break down. Why? Mobile development requires a rapid feedback cycle, and it's hard to execute if developers have to wait for IT operations teams to respond to their change requests. Developer self-provisioning will re-balance the relationship in favor of developers, away from traditional IT organizations -- because control over hardware and infrastructure resources will no longer be absolute.

But with greater developer power comes greater responsibility for security and performance. Expect more developers to be on call for application support in the new model, using triage to handle defects and investigate degradation to production services. Those tasks have traditional been the domain of systems administrators. Expect IT operations personnel to become integrated into development teams and to start their work at the inception of an idea.

Jeffrey Hammond and Julie Ask are vice presidents and principal analysts at Forrester Research.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Hammond


Jeffrey Hammond is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

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