Mobile cloud platforms: Making native and hybrid integration easy

By Jonathan Hassell

The advantage of mobile cloud platforms is the ability to build your app once and effectively run it anywhere, regardless of the type of device. It is a little bit more complicated than that, but not much. In the past, you would have had to compose distinct sets of code for each platform you wanted to target. Since Objective-C differs from Java, just to name a couple of languages, code reuse used to be difficult. Code had to be rewritten from one language to another to function.

Mobile platforms make running apps across multiple channels a lot easier, and they do so in two different ways:

1. Hybrid applications

Most mobile cloud platforms offer the ability to develop hybrid applications, which use technologies common to a number of popular platforms, phones and devices. These technologies — including HTML5, JavaScript, CSS and JavaScript application programming interfaces (APIs) — target common languages and common facilities that can be used across the varying mobile device platforms. Typically, JavaScript-common APIs allow functions like camera, synchronization, background work and notifications to operate across devices made by different manufacturers.

With the hybrid application approach, you do lose some of the capability of targeting native features unique to specific device platforms, but you gain the compatibility and ease of use associated with well-supported, popular standards that will help you get your app out quickly with minimal fuss.

2. Native applications

If, for whatever reason, a hybrid application is unsuitable or impossible for your mobile app, then many mobile cloud platforms allow the creation of native applications to each of the major phone and tablet platforms. There, the application is compiled to run natively on each device — yet you can reuse much of the same code in your development environment. Only when you go to port and compile the native application is the device’s native language used. To use this option you typically have to perform some final configuration steps in order for the platform to reuse your code correctly and set up the native build environment. However, the lion’s share of your — or your developers’ — work stays in a single version with the cloud platform software, thereby reducing errors, improving quality and increasing productivity.

This approach has the added benefit of keeping the vast majority of your code in one application, while letting your developers use tools that are familiar to them, plus contain the features and enhancements needed to get their jobs done quickly. It also still allows the code to be re-used effectively and to enable specific features for platforms that can take advantage of them.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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