Easing the pressure points - Mobile World Live

Easing the pressure points

05 JUL 2011

While the mobile app industry goes from strength to strength, there are still a number of hurdles facing developers looking to build a business in this competitive sector. Although choice is undoubtedly a good thing, in the mobile app market there is perhaps the problem of too much choice, with developers having to make a number of decisions that can define the success – or otherwise – of their apps.

appMobi looks to address one of the key crunch points for developers, by providing tools which enable the creation of native or web apps using common web programming languages such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. It grew out of FlyCast, a business delivering media apps, which created a cross platform mobile app development ecosystem “as a result of the extraordinary engineering effort required to bring its entertainment apps to different smartphone platforms.” Earlier this year appMobi announced the closing of its US$6 million Series B funding round.

Dave Kennedy, CEO of the company, said: “Today’s developers are faced with a myriad of choices for mobile app development (Apple iOS, Google Android, Microsoft Windows Phone 7, BlackBerry Playbook, HP WebOS). Each of these present different operating systems, different development languages and platforms that developers are expected to assimilate. And generally each platform addressed is handled by a different internal or external development team, resulting in asynchronous delivery, apps with different feature sets, released at different times, supported by different teams often with a different look and feel.”

“We help solve this by providing the tools for a single development team to deliver applications for native operating systems and the mobile web by writing one foundational code base using HTML5 and JavaScript, the standard languages of the web. This provides common look and feel, one support team and synchronous market delivery.”

HTML5 gaining ground
Bearing in mind appMobi’s approach to the market, it is unsurprising to find that Kennedy is a strong supporter of HTML5 as a tool for mobile developers. “We believe the migration will begin in earnest the second half of 2011 and that 2012 will be the year that most organisations and developers fully embrace HTML5 development,” Kennedy said. Driving this is growing support for the technology both within the mobile industry and beyond – “many companies not named Apple are highly motivated to ensure the successful migration to HTML5 development.”

This will be aided by the fact that web technologies are being developed which will deliver performance similar to that achieved by native apps – and in order to be successful, a comparable user experience will be key. “Once WebGL, HTML5 and JavaScript engines are optimised fully, which we see happening now with announcements from companies like Qualcomm at their developer conference, there will be no intrinsic advantage performance-wise for native app development.”

“Developers are carefully analysing the opportunity that the mobile web brings to them and as soon as the functionality and performance of a web app mirrors that of a native app, I believe we’ll begin to see a mass migration to the open web, just as we saw happen on the desktop,” he continued.

The adoption of HTML5 for mobile apps will also change the app store environment, and the availability of high-performance web apps “will absolutely have a negative impact on the Apple App Store and the Android Market.” Kennedy notes: “Of course these stores have created opportunities not seen by developers since the advent of the Internet. However, they are in many ways walled gardens and walled gardens often beg to be broken down.”

In contrast, it will have “a much bigger positive impact” on emerging stores, which will offer HTML5 apps. “Carriers are seeking a bigger position in this space and more GetJar-like companies will be built to address the interest and demand,” he said.

Growth in the cloud
appMobi is a mobile cloud services company. It gives away the desktop tools, and begins to charge developers for cloud usage. Project storage is also free. “Once the developers want to deploy their apps and interact with them in the field, we begin to charge them,” Kennedy said. In addition to its development tools, it provides transactional services such as cross-platform rich-media push messaging, custom analytics, one-touch payment authentication, and over-the-air app dates.

While there are clear benefits for developers looking to exploit the benefits the cloud can deliver, this is not without challenges – “Amazon Web Services is enormous and kind of like attacking a charging elephant for many developers: wonderful, but daunting,” he continues. “That’s why we’ve built our business around simplifying the process for mobile developers. We’ve abstracted the Amazon cloud services into bite-size, manageable, in some cases completely transparent tools for developers to use for mobile app development, deployment, data delivery and monetisation.”

Partnering for growth
appMobi also offers a turnkey, white label platform-as-a-service solution, which enables other companies to create their own mobile app ecosystems. According to Kennedy: “we spend most of our biz dev cycles working with carriers, handset makers and even chipset makers today to provide them with HTML5 dev tools to complement their existing developer ecosystem. Everyone is scrambling today to author their ‘HTML5 Story’. Additionally, many companies that are not in the three areas mentioned above have large developer communities that would love to have tools like ours (think navigation, weather, speech recognition, API web services, etc).”

“We’re a small company, so working with larger companies to add value to their business allows us to leverage their messaging and distribution. 3rd party adoption and recommendations are key for our long-term success,” he concludes.


Steve Costello


Mobile World Live

Mobile World Live is the online service dedicated to providing the mobile industry with daily news coverage & analysis of the biggest global market developments.

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