The famously fun and fractious world of smartphones offers tremendous potential advantages to businesses. It also offers a tremendous amount of confusion.
IT Business Edge blogger Mike Vizard has it exactly right. He says the problem is that there are multiple smartphones and, thus, multiple application development environments. These parallel universes often coexist awkwardly within the same company. He says the answer is to find the "highest level of abstraction," which seems to be the database.
There is another potential answer to the challenge: Writing to the mobile browser itself. This is not a new idea and, clearly, has a lot going for it. Clearly, mobile operating systems are one of the hottest areas of investment and research and development. It figures that their ability to be the development environment for enterprise-worthy applications will be growing as well.
Reuters, in its report on the release of a test version of a mobile browser from Opera, included this quote from Geoff Blaber, an analyst at consultancy CCS Insight:
The importance of the browser is increasing not only because of the need for a good browsing experience, but also as future mobile content and applications will be increasingly built on top of the browser.
This piece at Mobile Strategy nicely sums up the advantages of browser-based applications and then helpfully links to two other pieces on the topic. The writer starts by pointing out that native applications-those written for the specific device-offer a "richer and better experience" and tend to integrate better with the phone. He then excerpts and links to pieces by Katie Fehrenbacher and by Jason Grigsby, vice president, mobile and Web strategist for Web services firm Cloud Four.
Fahrenbacher's piece quotes Opera co-founder and CEO Jon von Tetzchner who, not surprisingly, positions the browser as the way around the morass of mobile platforms. Grigsby refutes five common criticisms of using the Web to create iPhone apps.
At the end of the day, there likely will continue to be a strong mix of Web-based and native applications. Indeed, it wouldn't be a shock to see parallel versions of the same application, allowing device owners to use one or the other when appropriate. This, combined with the database strategy outlined by Vizard, suggests there are ways around today's messy smartphone application environment.