PHP developers are looking forward to exercising their new powers. Hopefully, for good.

Yesterday at ZendCon, Andi Gutmans unveiled new capability in Zend Studio to build “cloud-connected mobile apps.” The latest version of Zend Studio helps developers create web services, intelligent mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and even your app’s user interface, all in one connected, simplified development environment. In fact, I watched Zend’s Kent Mitchell do it in about 10 minutes.

“It’s pretty cool,” IBMs’ Ryan Watkins told me last night at a ZendCon reception. “It definitely makes it look easy.”

Princeton University’s Henry Umansky, who builds internal web applications for the university’s staff and students, was even more effusive.

“It looks impressive! I think it will be a complete paradigm shift in the way people develop for mobile first,” he said. “And it’s excellent for rapid prototyping. The stakeholders for our projects are generally very visual people.”

The new Zend Studio integrates Cordova, the open-source project better known as PhoneGap, to help developers launch native apps for multiple mobile platforms from a single codebase. That’s what was attractive to Quicken Loan‘s Jim Starr.

“Our developers want to write once and deploy everywhere,” he told me. “I’m intrigued by that.”

Another developer, who didn’t want to be named as he did not have permission to speak for his company, was cautiously optimistic, saying that though he didn’t develop much for mobile at the moment, “things are shifting that way.”

A number of developers I spoke to were, like him, cautiously examining the idea of being able to develop for mobile — almost like a child with a new toy that he or she has not yet determined is fun or scary. For many PHP developers, it seems, the transition from back-end server-side development to new user-interface-centric mobile development is a bit of a leap.

One thing that might be interesting from a Zend point of view: developers who use PHP but don’t use Zend might now be convinced to use Zend’s development stack: Studio, Server, and so on.

“It looks pretty cool. I haven’t used Zend Studio yet,” said Dru Spackman, who builds in the NetBeans IDE but is now considering a change.

photo credit: CalEvans via photopin cc

Disclosure: Zend paid most of my travel expenses to attend ZendCon. My reporting, however, remains my own.