Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA) or Cross Platform Mobile Development Tools – a Comparison


To build and maintain applications required to reach out to you customer through Mobile & Smart phone is expensive.

Why? Because of platform proliferation. Because of quick technology obsolescence.  (See this)

Management perception compounds the problem.

Anybody, not intimately familiar with this technical challenge, perceives that the effort of developing a mobile application should be proportional to the size of the screen. In other words, since mobile screen is much smaller than a PC or a Laptop screen, the effort required for developing application should also be proportionately less.

Hence the budget for developing and maintain mobile channel becomes small!

What is the way out?

Only way out is to use a tool or a framework which can support multiple platforms. However, as of today, there isn’t any “one size fit all” tool. There are many tools available in the market – each has its own strength and weakness.

Good news is that most of the tools are available for you to try them out. Some of them are …

Some of them have recently been acquired and their status may change in the near future:

-          PhoneGap by Adobe

-          OpenPlug by Alcatel-Lucent

-          Bedrock (Metismo) by Software AG

So, how do you go about selected the tool which is right for you?

Questions you should ask yourself

  1. Do you really need an installable native application? Why not just stick to a mobile website?
  2. If an installable native application is really needed – which platforms should you target now? One year down the line?
  3. What is the expected life of the application? Will you be ready to scrap it in a couple of years’ time?
  4. If you make a native iPhone application which does not feels like a true iPhone application – would it be acceptable? What about similar Android application?

After you have realistically answered these questions you might decide one of the following paths:

-          Stick to a generic mobile website

-          Build an iPhone application only

-          Native application needs to feel truly like a native application

If so then you need only to look at the first of the five categories of the tool given below.

5 Categories of WORA Tools

  1. Mobile Web: These tools are primarily JavaScript libraries which in combination with suitable HTML 5 and corresponding CSS render you mobile website on different types of devices. Some of these tools can work in conjunction with Hybrid tool and the result can be packaged as a native application. [Here is a comparison of 10 such tools]
  2. Visual Tool: They provide a visual interface where elements / widgets are dropped into the screen and the internal application plumbing is taken care by the tool. The resultant (depending on the tool) is either a native application or a mobile website.  [Here is a comparison of 5 such tools]
  3. App Generator: In this category you have tools where you write your application in a specific language but the tool translates it into a deployable native application for different platforms. The deployable application may include a runtime engine or a virtual machine. The programming language varies from tool to tool. [Here is a comparison of 6 such tools]
  4. Hybrid App: This category of tools provide a platform specific shell application which has the capability of rendering prepackaged HTML pages and extends the HTML capability through APIs which allow access to device specific features. Some of them include libraries to render platform specific UI. [Here is a comparison of 5 such tools]
  5. Game Builder: This is similar to the previous category but these tools are primarily targeted for game development. They have much richer UI library and may even have 3D graphics capability. Some of them use special languages like Lua or LiveCode. Their cross-platform capability may extend beyond just mobile devices. (Bedrock (Metismo), Corona (Ansca), Livecode (RunRev) , Marmalade, Unreal, Unity 3) [Here is a comparison of 9 such tools]

[Update: Here is one more platforms - from Dojo]

Home page: Link

Next >> Mobile Web Tools

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Comments
26 Responses to “Write Once Run Anywhere (WORA) or Cross Platform Mobile Development Tools – a Comparison”
  1. surpanch says:

    There are some important frameworks are missing in this article such as dojo/dojo mobile.

  2. dodgy_coder says:

    Thanks for your article. I’ve posted an article focusing on the “app generator” style toolkits here for your reference.

  3. Angelo says:

    Great post. Thanks.
    There is another tool, XPower++ from Technologies++ (http://gridplusplus.com/).

    Regards.
    Angelo

  4. Henrik says:

    Thanks for a good post.
    It is soon a must for all companies that develops Apps for more than one platform to implement a framework or a tool.
    It is just to expensive, slow and insecure to go native on all platforms with one team and one source code for every OS and device type.
    Sencha, MoSync, PhoneGap etc now follow standards from W3C and others so I believe that its easier to make a move now than earlier.

  5. That’s a great review and I’m looking forward to the in-depth analysis. For developing line-of-business mobile apps, I’m leaning towards using familiar HTML5/CSS/JavaScript tools, probably packaged with PhoneGap.

  6. Hi Udayan, Thanks for the post. Posts like yours are bubbling up more now than 6 months ago, showing that the market is reaching a certain level of maturity.

    July Systems has been a leader in providing cross platform tools and development environment for businesses like CNN, NBA, NFL, ESPN, ToysRUs for years. We have tools that are not only used by developers to develop mobile web and cross platform NATIVE applications, but we also have visual drag and drop tools used extensively by customers like CNN to create landing pages and mircosites for key events and news as they unfold. When you have a chance, please take a look at it. I can also setup a demo account for you to play around and create a mobile version of your blog site. http://www.julysystems.com

    Regards
    Anita Moorthy

  7. Guruprasad Belthur says:

    What about Microsoft’s XNA and XAML based WPF and Silverlight? That clearly qualifies as WORA. And to substantial extent all the needed tools and IDE are free. And not to forget, .net port Mono.

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