When I was seven years old, my mother bought a car phone. A jungle of black steel wedged between the two front seats of her station wagon, it boasted a foot-long spiral cord and was reserved for emergencies. As for most people who live at the mainstream edge of the tech world, that clunky car phone was my first brush with mobile technology. Fast-forward 18 years, and mobile has become a bit more...well, mobile.
As the use of mobile technologies became more widespread--a phenomenon called IT consumerization--the business impact was obvious. To leverage mobile, successful organizations were quick to deploy mobile apps, and market and sell their products in app stores. Today, these business decisions seem run-of-the-mill: Consumers expect to be able to buy and use products on their mobile devices.
And the expectations of mobile users are only growing. This has ushered in a series of new trends in development, as developers aim to build mobile apps with better scalability, ease of use, and more beautiful user interfaces. Some of these trends--like open application programming interfaces (APIs) and Representational State Transfer (REST) services--are already widely used. Others--like HTML5 and mobile back ends--are still new and gaining traction in 2013.
But all of today's mobile-driven development trends can be said to have the same long-term purpose: To adapt traditional development techniques to the mobile environment in order to improve users' experiences. The end-game, as always, is increased business agility. A better mobile development strategy means faster deployment of apps, easier ways to make changes to them, and improved responsiveness to the mobile marketplace.
If you take anything away from this blog post, it should be this: The adoption of mobile applications is spreading exponentially and, as a result, development is changing. Consider that industry analyst group Gartner Inc. predicts that more than 73 billion mobile applications will be downloaded in 2013 alone. By 2016, Gartner says, that number will nearly quadruple to 287.9 billion.
Below, you'll find four topics that are gaining attention from development teams today. Read on--and follow the links--to learn why each could be key to staying ahead of the mobile development curve:
1. Backend as a Service (BaaS). BaaS has emerged as an alternative to mobile middleware, the software that connects disparate mobile applications. The new approach uses the cloud to connect back-end services to the user-facing front end of mobile apps. This eliminates the need for developers to build out their own back ends; BaaS provides the back end, along with common back end features like push notifications, location services, and social networking integration.
2. REST APIs. Mobile--along with cloud, social and 'big data'--is changing the complexion of application integration. Over the past few years, new technologies and integration approaches have arisen to address the unique requirements of integrating mobile apps. In particular REST APIs have taken the fore, gaining added important in application integration design.
3. Mainframes and legacy applications. Shiny new apps are threatening the existence of legacy applications and the mainframe. Or are they? This trend has yet to take a solid direction. Increasingly, development leaders are forced to measure the worth of existing applications against brand new mobile and Web apps. As mobile app adoption spreads, the question of what will happen to mainframes and legacy applications only gets louder.
4. Web vs. native browsers. The debate over Web and native browsers came to a head in 2012 when Facebook's Zuckerberg denounced HTML5. Still, it's far from over. Development leaders are wondering how HTML5 will impact open source software and mobile applications, should it gain popularity with developers. It remains to be seen what will happen, and how the outcome will impact both development and integration.
Want to hear it from the experts? I don't blame you. Luckily, I have this for you, since mobile app development has dominated my conversations with IT analysts, industry viewers and development team leaders over the past year.
Until next time,