Enterprise architects' guide to success with mobile apps for business
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If you've been keeping up with the evolution of mobile development, you know the competition among vendors selling solutions in the enterprise space is steep. Consumer devices continue to proliferate, and consumerization trends, like BYOD, has become the norm. This puts significant focus on cross-platform compatibility for Android and iOS. But the fact remains that enterprises are still purchasing and deploying company-owned mobile computing devices on a massive scale as well. The catch is that these devices look more like scanners than smartphones, and they often rely on the Windows 8 platform.
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You can create a perfectly fine B2C application that's cross-platform from HTML or HTML5. But you won't be able to run it on Windows Mobile and you won't necessarily get sync capability.
Geoff Poremba, Motorola Solutions
Motorola is definitely a market leader in providing rugged hardware for activities like signature capture, sales and order tracking, inventory management, and payment processing. To ensure their position as a preferred provider, they recently decided to secure another link in the supply chain—an app development suite, taking the time honored approach of acquisition to achieve instant innovation. Instead of building a mobile application development solution from scratch, Motoroloa purchased RhoMobile in 2011 and spun off the Motorola Solutions division to serve enterprise customers.
How RhoMobile helps businesses go mobile
Yes, it works with Windows
According to Geoff, "You can create a perfectly fine B2C application that's cross-platform from HTML or HTML5. But you won't be able to run it on Windows Mobile and you won't necessarily get sync capability." This is big selling point for the Motorola Solution—particularly since so many of their devices are Windows based. The ability to compile to a native application on CE utilizing an HTML5 rendering engine (part of WebKit) bundled with the executable is a distinguishing factor. Offline access to data is another. It's especially important for workers out in the field. For example, someone doing inventory or other tasks inside a commercial freezer isn't going to have WIFI access. RhoMobile offers workarounds that other solutions haven't yet matched.
Will Web Apps Win Out Over Mobile?
The versatility of HTML5 provides additional choices for app delivery. In fact, Geoff confirmed that you could run your apps as hybrids, serving up the definition from a web server. However, it may be a while before this is the preferred method for mobile.
Desktop delivery of web apps is hugely popular, with even complex and sophisticated applications such as tax software now delivered entirely through a browser-based experience. A similar trend to consolidate mobile app management would enormously simplify the development process and curb the ongoing fragmentation. But for some reason, mobile users still want to download and install their own apps. Poremba admits he can't explain this behavior, even though he does exactly the same thing himself. "In mobility, users prefer to have individual apps and manage them through an app store. I don't see that changing any time soon." This means the fragmentation in platforms is likely to get worse.
However, Geoff does hold out more hope for pure HTML5 itself. Even after the slap in the FaceBook it got from Zuckerberg's failed app project, the day when HTML5 really can do it all is getting closer. "I would say that as HTML5 continues to evolve, it's going to give more and more access to the native APIs. We're starting to see definitions and access to cameras and things like that." In the meantime, the RhoMobile suite from Motorola and other HTML5-reliant solutions are already addressing some of the current shortcomings by offering access to native APIs through the compilation process. It's not a forever fix, but it keeps mobile moving for now.
How are delivering mobile solutions to the smartphone and embedded device space? Let us know.