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Top 10 Considerations for Choosing a Mobile Application Platform

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Top 10 Considerations for Choosing a Mobile Application Platform

Contents
Do I Need a Platform? .................................................................................................................. 3 Do It Yourself................................................................................................................................ 3 Build Apps Users Want................................................................................................................. 4 Design for Performance ............................................................................................................... 4 Develop Efficiently ....................................................................................................................... 5 Authentication and Security ........................................................................................................ 6 Application Diversity .................................................................................................................... 6 Closing the HTML5 Gap ................................................................................................................ 7 Backend Integration ..................................................................................................................... 8 Control and Management............................................................................................................ 9 Investment Protection ................................................................................................................. 9 About Worklight......................................................................................................................... 10

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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Do I Need a Platform?
Not every organization requires a Mobile Application Platform. Some mobile initiatives involve limited requirements and goals that will not benefit from such an investment. So, in which cases will the platform approach be beneficial? A Mobile Application Platform will deliver significant value if any of the following is true: 1. Your organization is planning on deploying more than one application. 2. Mobile applications are a key component of your core business. 3. You have no control over the mobile devices of your end-users. 4. Your organization employs clear security and authentication standards. 5. Your applications are designed to integrate with a variety of backend systems. If you decided that the platform approach is right for your organization, this document attempts to describe the top ten considerations you must be aware of when choosing the right platform for your organization’s needs.

Do It Yourself
True cross-platform applications have been the holy grail of mobile development for quite some time now. Unfortunately, achieving a seamless transition of code across mobile platforms, while maintaining an optimized user experience on each device, is easier said than done. To overcome this challenge, many solutions in the market resort to one of two alternatives; a highly automated form-based or WYSIWYG IDE, which will be discussed in the next point, or a technology that relies heavily on proprietary components and services rendered by the vendor. Choosing a platform that is backed by a services-oriented business model has two main drawbacks. The first is the cost of scalability. The proprietary nature of the platform requires additional services whenever the organization wishes to develop a new app, or even when making changes to existing ones. Facing the constant changes and uncertainty in the mobile market, these services mount up to significant, many times unforeseen expanses.

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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The second drawback involves the growing need of enterprises to tightly control their entire mobile project. If this is a critical requirement for your organization, be sure to choose a mobile platform that can easily be operated by your developers and IT professionals, using the skills and in-house knowledge you already own. Doing so will ensure that your apps are optimized for your company’s needs and adhere to its regulations and standard. Many solutions in the market allow developers to use common technologies and skills such as HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML and JSON, as well as easily integrate with many of the available third-party libraries and frameworks that exist in the market, such as Sencha Touch, JQuery Mobile, Dojo Mobile and others.

Build Apps Users Want
As I mentioned previously, some vendors achieve the portability of the code across different mobile operating systems by designing a drag-n-drop, form-based, or WYSIWYG development environment. These development environments, although very simple to use (some do not even require coding), can prove to be very limiting in terms of application functionality and user interface. Mobile apps are like any other product; if you want people to use them, they need to be good. Good apps are engaging, designed for performance (another important point I will discuss later), and are able to deliver the functionality users need, on-the-go, and in a simple-to-use manner. Developing such apps with a form-based IDE, or a pre-packaged app, for example, is for all intents and purposes impossible. When choosing a platform, ensure it can enable the development of not only the two or three apps you have in mind today, but any apps your organization might plan to develop in the future. Recent studies show that a large portion of companies are planning to deploy tens of apps in the near future, both internal and customer-facing. Do not limit your company’s mobile strategy with a quick fix.

Design for Performance
More and more users are starting to demand the same experience whether using their laptops at home or mobile devices on the go. Recent reports show that already today, mobile users are spending more time using apps than mobile browsersi. Combined with projections of over 50% of users accessing the

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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web via mobile devices by the end of 2013ii, the conclusion is clear - application performance has never been more crucial for your organization’s mobile initiative. No one would argue with the notion that native apps (apps that have been developed using the native code of the device) deliver the highest performance and user experience. But at the same time, the cost of their development and maintenance, the time it takes to deploy them and their dependency on one single device make them an expensive endeavor that many companies decide to forgo. And who can blame them? Among today’s mobile development solutions one can easily find platforms that deliver hybrid coding capabilities, allowing developers to combine both native and web code within the same application. This technique results in an app that delivers the experience users expect, but at the same time, includes a codebase that can be shared across environments, easily maintained and significantly cheaper to develop. But application performance does not end with a few lines of native code. When choosing a mobile platform, be sure it was built for performance and includes comprehensive testing features, mobilefriendly coding, slim data-transfer protocols, secure on-device storage, background activities, network identification capabilities, server-side mashups of back-end data and others.

Develop Efficiently
There are many ways to build a mobile app and many solutions that can help in the process, but not all deliver the same level of efficiency and cost savings. Modern business applications are constantly evolving. For one, they are rarely developed by a single person anymore. In fact, one would normally find multiple teams working on different portions of the same app. Sometimes even from different geographic locations and using different code languages, 3rd-party libraries, and open source frameworks. In this reality, it becomes critically important to maintain a centralized overview of the process and ensure that the policies of the organization are enforced and maintained. Building apps using a platform can dramatically simplify this process and its overhead. For example, some of the features that modern platforms should enable include a centralized build mechanism, source control management, elaborate testing and error reporting capabilities, concurrent development of independent elements, simple integration with 3rd-party frameworks, and more.

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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Authentication and Security
Whether employee or customer-facing, mobile applications are quickly assuming the roles of many mission-critical systems in the enterprise. It is no wonder then that authentication and security have risen to become the top concerns of the mobile enterprise. Recent reports show that mobile commerce will reach $31B by 2016iii, and that by 2015, fifty percent of online sales will be conducted via mobile appsiv. The vast amount of transactions and the sensitive data they entail will have to be secured and protected. Like the web before it, regulatory legislation of the mobile channel is a question of when, not if. When choosing a mobile technology, ensure it provides a robust security and authentication framework. Such features include secure client/server communication, on-device encryption, offline authentication, access control and other mechanisms that will complement your existing infrastructure as well as steer your brand away from embarrassment and legal actions.

Application Diversity
Mobile apps are no longer an experiment. Companies are quickly realizing their value to different lines of business, both as productivity tools for employees, or as engagement channels facing customers. Choosing a development approach for these apps, namely native, web or hybrid, entails many parameters such as budget, project timeframe, target audience and application functionality to name a few. Each approach carries inherent benefits and limitations, and with no single panacea, finding the one that best addresses the unique needs of each project could be a challenging task. The image below attempts to summarize the basic pros and cons that each approach entails.

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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One clear conclusion that arises from this summary is that the answer lies not in one approach, but rather in a flexible solution; one that can harness the benefits that each provides and support not only the development of one mobile app, but of the entire mobile strategy.

Closing the HTML5 Gap
Commitment from all major mobile vendors, active standardization efforts and a growing ecosystem of 3rd-party tools has been fueling recent success and adoption of HTML5. This umbrella of over onehundred features, including textual and graphical presentation, data semantics and manipulation, messaging, storage, and user interaction has become the leading candidate in the race for standardizing cross-platform mobile development. Thanks to technological advancements in modern mobile browsers, using HTML5, today’s mobile developers can easily build native-like cross-platform apps while implementing advanced UI components, leveraging offline storage capabilities, accessing rich media types and geo-location data, and expanding their delivery channels beyond public app stores.

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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But despite its progress, many challenges still stand in the way of HTML5 adoption. Limited access to native device APIs, uneven support from different devices, cache limitations, proprietary Android layers, and browser memory management are but a few of the gaps that mobile developers face. But instead of compromising on application functionality, or forgoing HTML5 and missing out on its clear current and future benefits, developers have another option – Hybrid Coding. Hybrid apps include a thin native layer that exposes the necessary native features of the device as a large corpus of HTML5 and JavaScript code for the application logic and presentation. Taking this approach, developers can still enjoy the benefits of choosing HTML5 as their core mobile technology, without compromising on application functionality, richness and, most importantly, the user experience. Furthermore, as HTML5 continues to evolve and cover more mobile features and functionality, early adopters of this approach will benefit from a seamless and gradual transition as opposed to an extreme overhaul of their entire mobile infrastructure.

Backend Integration
Mobile business apps are not independent entities. They are tightly connected to a variety of existing backend systems that are responsible for the organization’s core processes, databases, and authentication and security mechanisms. Backend integration determines not only the functionality of the application, but is also crucial for its performance, maintenance overhead, scalability, time-tomarket, and regulatory compliance. Beware of solutions that require extreme makeovers of your IT infrastructure. Especially those made with proprietary components. The right platform will make use of the organization’s existing resources and will allow developers to easily interact with them in a secure manner via standard and mobilefriendly technologies such as XML and JSON. Furthermore, a server-based architecture performing as the gateway between the application, the backend, and cloud-based services provides an independent integration layer that is accessible to all apps. Leveraging such approach will not only dramatically reduce your cost of development, time to market and ongoing maintenance efforts, but also allow you to mash-up multiple backend data streams and optimize them for mobile consumption.

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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Control and Management
Much of the value derived from business applications is associated with the ability to access data and transactions on the go, in a secure and simple way. To facilitate this, companies allow direct access from mobile devices to backend systems; many times exposing sensitive information to easily hacked and unprotected devices. What many of them are quickly realizing is that managing the apps after they have been downloaded and installed on devices has never been more important. Coupled with the growing fragmentation of devices in the market and employees bringing their personal smartphones and tablets to work (BYOD), a growing number of organizations are starting to adopt an application management approach (MAM), rather than device-based (MDM). Some of the critical features such approach provides address issues such as centralized access control, application version management, Over-The-Air (OTA) updates, remote disablement and many more. But not all of the control and management features that mobile platforms deliver are focused on preventing data loss. As mobile devices assume a more prominent role in payments and ecommerce, organizations must prepare to collect and harness the data these transactions entail, as well as analyze it in corporate BI systems and draw actionable conclusions from it. When choosing a platform, be sure such data is collected and can be easily exported to your existing BI infrastructure.

Investment Protection
The mobile landscape is far from standardizing. With the ongoing fragmentation of devices and no clear leader in the market, companies must continue and cater their apps to a variety of operating systems and form-factors. But in order to do so, the platform that is at the core of their mobile strategy must be backed by a vendor who can quickly support new environments as they reach the market. Before choosing a mobile application platform do your homework. Check whether the vendor has a support framework that fits your SLAs and an elaborate product roadmap. Be sure he can refer you to satisfied customers and that he is financially viable.

© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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About Worklight
Worklight, an IBM company, is a leading mobile application platform for smartphones and tablets. Many of the world’s largest companies rely on the Worklight Mobile Platform to create, run and manage optimized cross-platform applications with unmatched development flexibility, secure enterprise connectivity and full lifecycle management to drive more business while radically reducing development cost, time to market and ongoing maintenance.

For further information please visit our website – www.worklight.com Download the 30-day free trial of our platform – www.worklight.com/download

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GigaOM - Mobile app use soars while mobile browsing wanes, by Ryan Kim, January 12, 2012 Online Media Daily - Gartner: Mobile to Outpace Desktop Web By 2013, by Mark Walsh, January 13, 2012 Forrester – Mobile Commerce Forecast: 2011 to 2016 - Sucharita Mulpuru Gartner – Companies Will Generate 50% of Web Sales Via Social and Mobile Applications by 2015

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© 2012 Worklight, Inc. and IBM company. All rights reserved

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