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Thinking of Developing App using Cross Platform Tools? Cross Platform Technology and its Significance

Before we delve into depths of cross platform tools, let’s try and understand what is cross platform technology and how does it help a business to grow. Cross platform refers to software that is interoperable on multiple platforms like iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, etc. Suppose you wish to access a mobile application from devices dependant on more than one kind of platform, you need to use a cross platform tool to develop such an application.

We also need to be clear about two emerging and highly successful concepts in the world of international business today – Enterprise Mobility Management and the Internet of Things. Employees have the flexibility to access company data using cloud storage devices from anywhere in the world, using any mobile device such as laptop, or a smart phone or an iPad. Thanks to the Internet of Things, different computing devices can be connected to each other for exchanging information, which aids in enhancing and improving enterprise communication. These two developments have changed the way computing devices are perceived and used. The birth and growth of cross platform applications can also be credited to the flexible network of communication demanded by mobile workforce to save time and costs.

Apps that can run on cross-platforms add value to the company’s products and services. Not just big business houses and multinational corporations, start-ups have also become aware of the need to develop such applications that any users can access from a platform of their choice. This helps to build on their market reach, acceptability and reliability.

Users and prospective customers don’t need to change their devices to access an app and they don’t have the time to do so. They’ll find it easier to simply switch to a similar app that gives them the flexibility. Hence, we can view all this effort to develop apps by using cross platform tools so that their clients don’t hop in elsewhere!

Weighing the cost-benefit scenario of app development

  • Size of the company matters: First things first, when do you need to think about developing an app to promote your company’s products/services? If you are an owner of a middle sized company, the requirements of your employees and customers will be mixed. You won’t be able to predict the exact kind of platform they’ll prefer. In such a situation you will need to develop an app for cross platform devices using both Android and iOS, focusing on your customer’s needs.
    On the other hand, a small company with a specific client base will require quick delivery of services without the burden of huge costs, in which case they’ll rather depend on cross platform applications already available in the market, otherwise known as commercial off-the-shelf products. When security concerns are critical for multinationals or large scale companies, using a combination of native tools with app management products is recommended. This of course, will take up the cost of development which can only be afforded by large companies, not small to mid size firms.
  • Easier to develop and use: Using cross platform tools, a single app development team can design apps which can be used across different kinds of devices. Since the app development team doesn’t have to work on separate tools, it takes down the costs and saves resources, especially the time it would take to learn more than one tool. Cross platform software runs on more than one operating system. This makes it easier for SMEs to reach a wider consumer market as well as aids in better and faster internal communication. If you observe the growth trends for apps running on different platforms, you will realize that each development and upgrade is a result of the users’ demand for a quicker, more cost effective and better experience.
  • Tools Designed to Build Multi-Platform Apps: The time is just right for either using the templates offered by tools or to develop an app using a cross platform tool. Keeping in mind the fact that tools are maturing faster and are responsive to market demand, the way towards developing such applications is being paved. However, there may be hurdles in the way, like finding the right team of developers who are adept at developing such apps with tools at their disposal. These apps can be launched faster than native apps because it needs just a single team and not different teams to create apps for different platforms. So, using tools will definitely take you to a more advantageous position when you’re thinking about developing cross platform apps.

Cross Platform Tools that are making headlines

Phone-Gap: If there is one tool that attracts app development minds like a bee to a flower, then that’s this Apache Cord ova-based, Android-owned tool – Phone-Gap. Now here’s something to cheer you up – this tool is free to use! There is another reason that makes the tool popular – it’s a time savior and it also allows combination with commercial off-the-shelf products. This feature allows developers to design apps faster. For the inexperienced developers, Phone-Gap allows translation of codes from HTML5, CSS and JavaScript with the help of Software Development Kits. Since it allows developers to leverage on their existing app development skills, it has found quite an impressive follower base. It serves Windows, iOS, BlackBerry and Android.

Xamarin: This is good choice if you want an app developed within a tight deadline and ready to serve mixed platforms. Since it uses C#, .NET-based teams will find it a smooth transition to mobile platforms. It offers a free trial. You can put it to test for around 1,000 devices just to be sure that it works fine. The second version, Xamarin 2 has also helped this cross platform app development tool reach out to new markets and earn enterprise partnerships with big brands like IBM and Microsoft. After the free trial you can subscribe to the paid service, if you get the desired results. This should be an encouragement – Xamarin has attracted an investment worth a whopping $54 million.

Sencha: HTML5 is used to develop apps, write the basic programs, which can later be translated to be used in iOS and Android platforms. Translation can be done using a tool like Phone-Gap. There are several pre-built components which help developers work faster. So, when time is a constraint, Sencha offers an easy solution, used in combination with other tools. Enterprise app developers mainly use Ext JS 5. Examples of Sencha tools include Sencha Architect, Sencha Touch Charts and Sencha Animator. It is a fully paid service and there are separate packages allowing five to twenty developers per year.

Appcelerator: Familiarity is the trump card that makes Appcelerator popular among app developers. Its Alloy MVC framework allows developers to write JavaScript in order to develop cross platform apps. Since this is a very common language, it saves time that would otherwise be spent in learning a new one. This also implies that the UI performance is better than hybrid options, thanks to the usage of native UI components. Appcelerator focuses on enterprise platforms, providing infrastructure for analytics, performance management and monitoring. This can be used to develop apps for mission critical enterprise programs as it also offers a private cloud option.

QT: The top five list of cross platform tools would be incomplete without QT which is used to create apps for embedded, desktop and mobile platforms. It requires the developer to subscribe to its service. The code need to be written in C++. Once written, it can be exported to the respective platforms and accessible it with the QT user interface. You can also test its applicability by using it on different platforms before deploying it commercially. It also provides intuitive APIs and a translator kit that enables easy translation.

The Final Word…

For any tool to be continuously functional on more than one platform, its UI needs to update itself regularly so that it can match up with the devices on which the app is accessed. Writing the code and developing a tool isn’t the end of the story – it’s just a beginning, almost like a road sign guiding you to take a specific direction. Strategizing on how to use the app to expand your company’s market reach or to establish seamless enterprise communication is up to you.

Understand your target customers, know why you need a particular cross platform application and then give a thought to the financial aspects. For instance, how much capital are you ready to invest to develop such an application? How much time do you have to launch the app? Can you do with a ready-to-use tool or your requirement is specifically for a tailor made platform? You also need to be prepared to update your app and the costs related to the same. Review them after every six months, to stay on track. Being clear about the objective will help you in choosing one or more tools in order to get the desired results within the time and budget constraints. In all possibilities, you may require to use more than one cross platform tool to create the application as you have envisioned it.


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