Business

Anticipating the future of mobile by looking at the history of the Web

This sponsored post is produced by Stephen Forte, the chief strategy officer of Telerik.

As mobile continues to be a major focus in all facets of business, developers face a multitude of challenges in implementing a successful strategy for it — integration, experience, standards and technology usage. But what if I told you that these challenges are inherently the same challenges that the developer community faced 15 years ago during the advent of the World Wide Web?

Operating under the assumption that mobile today is where the Web was in 1999 — not just from a boom and hype perspective but also from an application development perspective — what can the web’s evolution teach us about the future of mobile? And how can developers address these challenges?

Big system integrations

Similar to today’s mobile innovators, B2C companies such as retailers took the lead in web innovation ahead of B2B enterprises who were slower to adopt. However, as they so often do, enterprises may have taken longer to adjust, develop, implement, and, of course, make the internal adjustments that would allow for a web presence, and B2B not only caught up but surpassed the B2C markets. That said, one of the most complex issues developers face today plagued the enterprise as it moved to the web storefronts — incorporating existing data from large, integrated CRM, ERP and database systems into web and mobile applications.

Fifteen years ago, these businesses addressed the integration issues by incorporating technologies such as Enterprise Service Buses (ESBs) to bring together the Java or C++ backend with HTML-based front ends. Today, developers are doing this in the cloud – with mobile backend services (MBaaS). This technology enables developers to plug in to large enterprise systems such as SAP or Oracle at a single point of entry that can then work with the multitude of devices in the market today. This is a much stronger alternative than developing mobile apps for every device and having multiple entry points, where security threats are abound.

Standards, platforms, and preferences

Of course, the question of industry standards has been around since before that of mobile or even the web. However, in the early days of web development, many turf wars raged — Windows or Web, IE or Netscape, pure HTML or proprietary JavaScript (sound familiar?); stay within AOL’s walled garden or branch out to the worlds of Internet Explorer or Netscape?

Again, these turf wars are alive and well due to the plethora of devices available today. Do we go native, web, or hybrid? Do we develop for iOS and Apple’s walled garden, or Android or both? What about Windows Phones or the emerging new mobile web-based phones like Mozilla’s FireFoxOS?

While standards bodies are working to come together, just like with the Web, it is unlikely we will ever see a single standard for mobile development. Rather, developers will exercise the web standards currently in place and will use technology that provides a “best of” scenario. For example, I am not going to argue the merits of native, Web, and hybrid. Each has a place and benefits. Rather, I am of the belief that the development environment and process should be based app requirements and focus on the user experience. Technology should not dictate app creation and businesses should look to tools that can offer developers choice.

Skillsets and proper planning

As was the case back in the ’90s, enterprise developers struggled to transition their desktop skillsets to that of web development. Change is difficult, as is learning new programming languages and deployment environments. This same class of developers, who either migrated their skillsets to the Web or moved on to greener pastures are once again faced with a monumental shift. Many are very comfortable building web applications but are now forced to go mobile and need to acquire skills for mobile development. And trying to integrate those approaches and skillsets can be a challenge for both developers and enterprises, just like it was during the early stages of web development, when developers had to shift from using Visual Basic or C++ to the likes of HTML, .NET and JavaScript.

Even if a business has developers with the required know-how, setting forth a strategy is unlike anything they’ve experienced in the past. For example, for those who’ve taken the leap into mobile, budgets were allotted to create and deploy a mobile app. However, many have not anticipated factors such as the rapid pace in which mobile evolves, requiring multiple iterations of the same application throughout the year or when a new device enters the market. Let’s face it: Within the next year or two, wearables are going to send many mobile app developers back to the drawing board.

Eventually, mobile, like the Web, is going to become something we take for granted — who doesn’t have a website? So organizations need to prepare. It is not simply be about integrating data in desktops, tablets and smartphones — it is about integrating data across smart technologies, wearables, and kitchen appliances and making all of these disparate devices talk to each other and share information as quickly and easily as the market evolves.

There are solutions available today that provide for cross-platform development and aide developers in creating apps in the environments they are comfortable. However, before moving forward, it is up to the business to determine their needs and ferret out the proper approach for their organization. Taking an adaptive development approach enables, developers and enterprises to develop once and deploy many as well as better prepare for whatever the next big wave of devices may be … when history repeats itself again.

Stephen Forte is the chief strategy officer at Telerik and is the cofounder and executive director of AcceleratorHK, Hong Kong’s first startup accelerator. He mentors at several startup accelerators, including Haxlr8r, the world’s only hardware startup accelerator. Stephen is also a board member of the Scrum Alliance. Prior to Telerik, he was the cofounder of Triton Works, which was acquired by UBM in 2010 and was the chief technology officer and cofounder of Corzen, Inc., which was acquired by Wanted Technologies in 2007. Prior to Corzen, Stephen served as the CTO of Zagat Survey in New York City (acquired by Google in 2011) and also was cofounder of the New York-based software consulting firm The Aurora Development Group.

Stephen speaks regularly at industry conferences around the world. He has written several books on application and database development, and is also a Certified Scrum Professional, CSM, and PMP. Stephen holds an MBA from the City University of New York. He is currently based in the Telerik office in Palo Alto, California.


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