Mobile app developers are embracing more cloud services in their products, a survey from Appcelerator and IDC noted. According to the study, 84 percent of respondents are using “at least one” cloud-enabled or cloud-based service. For the immediate future, the preferred model seems to be support for multiple providers. When asked about 44 cloud-based components and services, developers intend using, on average, 13 of these now and over the coming 12 to 18 months.
Developers are integrating with cloud-based services across a number of product categories. Leading the way is social networking integration, with 78 percent of developers either using or planning to use these services; followed by 70 percent using commerce apps (such as PayPal); 70 percent integrating with their own behind-the-firewall enterprise services; 65 percent connecting to media services including YouTube or Flickr; and 65 percent using a real-time messaging service. Fewer than half (42 percent) are supporting mobile advertising services such as AdMob or iAd.
While cloud services provide the potential to remove many of the issues related to fragmentation, by enabling access to content and services from different device types and operating systems, the need to deliver services seamlessly will be critical to success. The report said that “some cloud SDKs are available on iOS only, some on Android, some on Windows Phone, etc,” which, along with the need to make data available as a service rather than through a website, adds together to create a “mess.” It noted that “somehow, some way, the pervasiveness of the cloud needs to be aligned to the ubiquity and proliferation of multiple devices and operating systems.”
Fragmentation a continued concern – across the board
While fragmentation is frequently presented as an Android-centric issue, the survey found that it is also a consideration across the wider developer ecosystem. For example, skills fragmentation between Objective-C and Java (for iOS and Android, respectively) was deemed the area of greatest concern in this regard, followed by OS fragmentation, due to the large number of operating systems used by different devices. Concern about fragmentation specifically among the Android environment ranked third.
However, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said that fragmentation represents the biggest risk to Android, followed by weak initial traction in tablets (30 percent) and the proliferation of different app stores (28 percent).
Mixed feelings for the mobile web
The survey also noted some unusual preference patterns when it comes to the issue of whether to create mobile apps or mobile websites. It was noted that while 48 percent of respondents felt that apps were the preferred model compared to mobile web properties, which were preferred by 10 percent of respondents, a significant number (42 percent) believe that both are important.
The most frequently highlighted attributes of mobile websites included ease of cross-platform development (67 percent), use of existing skill sets (60 percent) and speed of development (52 percent). The frequently-touted benefit of being able to avoid app store lock-in was cited by 45 percent of respondents. Appcelerator highlighted that mobile apps are still perceived as offering a “path to direct monetisation…that is missing from the mobile web.”