Mobile devices are exploding onto the IT scene. They seem to be available for every possible application as we move from traditional work on a desktop computer to laptops, tablets and smart phones. As we begin to make this transition, there seems to be a lot of discussion and difference of opinion on how to develop this technology.

There seem to be three camps of thought:

  1. Each device is unique and the best mobile applications are developed in the language native to the device being used. This is of course true, especially if you are developing games, but it also can be extremely expensive if you are developing an application that will be used on several devices. You also leave your application open to have to be upgraded every time the native operating system is upgraded, which seem to happen a lot. The cost to develop in a totally native environment may be cost prohibitive.
  2. By using a technology like HTML5, mobile applications can be developed which are platform independent. This will allow you to develop once and deploy across multiple platforms. HTML5 is the lowest cost solution, but may not give you the best performance across platforms. This may be particularly true with device capabilities like photo sharing and automated address book synchronizing.
  3. In a recent paper, the Forrester group purports that a hybrid development solution will soon become the technology of choice. By using HTML5 plus JavaScript with a wrapper that gives the application native capability, you get the best of both worlds.  There are more knowledgeable coders who develop for the web and wrapping for native capabilities solves some of the HTML5 incompatibility issues. Forrester states that they believe the majority of applications will be developed this way in the future.

As companies determine their mobile development strategies, they must look at a number of issues which will guide their decision making process. Are you developing an application that will only be used on one or two devices?  Are you developing for an agency that will direct which devices those are? The decision may come down to fully understanding your audience, your budget and the application requirements.