Crossing the Mobile Development Gap

If you’re not using HTML5 to develop mobile apps, you may be in the minority. In a Telerik survey of 4,043 developers, 82 percent said HTML5 will be important for their job this year.

A big part of HTML5’s appeal is its ability to help mitigate the OS-fragmentation problem. It’s often much cheaper and faster to build an HTML5 app that works across Android, iOS and other platforms versus building a native app for each OS. And in the case of magazines and newspapers, HTML5 provides a way to reach iPhone and iPad users without paying a 30 percent royalty to Apple. 

In February, Intel acquired the HTML5 tools division of appMobi, along with the staff responsible for those products. [Disclosure: Intel is the sponsor of this content.] We recently spoke with Daniel Holmlund, a software engineer working in developer relations at Intel’s Software and Services Group, about how appMobi gives developers more options for using HTML5.

What’s encouraging developers to get into HTML5? For example, is it mainly to be able to hit a bunch of different devices with one development effort?

Daniel Holmlund: That’s a large part of it. To go from one platform to another, you have to hire people that are experts in the other platform. You have to put up the money to redevelop your entire application or your entire product. You have to maintain both your original product and the new product. Each additional platform is a very large additional cost. It might double or triple it if you’re adding a third platform.

HTML5 brings down all of those costs by letting developers target multiple platforms all at once. That’s very attractive, especially to a lot of four- and five-member developer shops that are short on manpower and want to target a lot of platforms.

Based on developer experiences, what are you hearing in terms of the amount of lead time that they can realistically expect to save?

D.H.: It depends on the type of application they’re trying to do. I would say that if they’re going to redesign their entire application from scratch, that’s going to take twice as long.

Let’s say it takes six months to develop an application. Then the same team -- or a different team even, one that’s better in the second platform -- takes four months or five months because they can use some of the work that was already done. It takes them a little less time to entirely redo the effort.

If the development group builds in HTML5 initially, and they’re doing something that works well on both platforms without a lot of tweaking, then they only need to write it once. They save all the time that would’ve gone into the second development.

They still have to do twice the QA. They still need to verify that their application works on each platform. Occasionally, you’re going to run into things that work on one platform and not the other. Then you have to find out what’s going on.

What are some ways that the appMobi acquisition from Intel benefits developers?

D.H.: Intel is now providing a service that we’re calling the Intel HTML5 Development Environment that lets you write JavaScript APIs. We also have a tool that will generate the correct platform-specific APIs. If you’re focusing on a Windows platform, you can code in one set of APIs, and then your application will have a library included that will let you target Windows or Android or ILS. We’re supporting Windows, Android, ILS, Facebook, the Nook, the Firefox OS and a few other platforms.

Another nice thing is that those tools provide a simulation environment. In your browser, you can test the accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. You can see how your application will behave before you actually generate the platform-specific packages.

If you’re interested in developing cross-platform apps, visit the Intel HTML5 Development Environment to download the Intel XDK and submit your app to multiple app stores:


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