Taking Your Brand to Mobile With Cross Platform Mobile App Development

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In the current age of internet based interaction between businesses and consumers, anybody who wants to have a brand needs to have an internet presence, even if their business is strictly a brick and mortar local shop. Whatever business you are in, chances are good that your customers and potential customers expect to be able to interact with your business over the internet. And increasingly, "interact over the internet" is coming to mean "interact over the internet via a connected mobile device." And, just as in the 1990's, when there were competing incompatible web browser platforms, today there are competing incompatible mobile device platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7 and 8, BlackBerry, and others in various states of slow decline.

The good news is that the web browsers used by these mobile devices are usually based on Webkit, an open source browser engine that should, theoretically, allow mobile web site designers to create sites that render the same on just about any Webkit based browser. There are a couple of piece of bad news, however. First, the hopeful third place contender in mobile operating systems, Windows Phone, doesn't use - and is unlikely to ever use - Webkit. For whatever reason, Microsoft prefers to take their own technological path. The other piece of bad news is that mobile device users seem to have much more engagement with their devices when they are using apps, vs. browsing the web. There are many possible reasons for this - for example, apps that are built for a small smartphone screen tend to be explicitly designed for that screen size and for the kinds of interactions typical of users: short engagements that are being multitasked on the go with other activities in the real physical world.

So what is one to do if one wants to have his brand on the smartphones of the largest possible audience, across a heterogeneous set of technologies, and do it on a sustainable budget? Enter cross platform mobile app development. Middleware software vendors, such as PhoneGap (now known as Apache Cordova), and Appcelerator provide technology platforms that can interface JavaScript code to the various platform specific language environments, and produce native applications that run on most of the major mobile platforms, including the current underdogs Windows Phone and Blackberry.

While the current dominance of iOS and Android is obvious, remember that technology moves fast and things can change dramatically. You would be wise to consider blackberry development and Windows Phone development in any mobile app branding campaign. In particular, while the decline in Blackberry subscribers has been well publicized, this platform is far from dead, at least yet. BlackBerry still has more than 70 million subscribers, who represent a desirable demographic of affluent professionals.

Cross platform tools are of course not a substitute for rigorous mobile application testing. Just because a middleware tool claims to support all of the platforms and all of the capabilities you may want to use in your app, you can't get away with neglecting to test every feature on every platform. The platform vendors do change their interfaces from time to time, and bugs and obsolescence are bound to creep into any middleware tool from time to time.
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