By Amit Roy Choudhury
Cross platform solutions are becoming a necessity with smartphones running on different operating systems (OSes) becoming common within enterprises.
Motorola Solutions' Mark Kirstein told BizIT that such solutions give application developers and enterprises the opportunity to keep their options open, as the operating system on which they use to build their apps today may not be commonplace in a couple of years.
"Cross mobility platforms insulate both web-based applications and native applications from the OS platform churn," Mr Kirstein, who is Motorola Solutions' senior director for product management solutions and frameworks, said.
There is a common belief that the competition for a dominant mobile platform has come down to a fight between Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
Mr Kirstein noted that over the past few years, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and Symbian have at one point or another, held dominance as the number one smartphone OS.
"Today, in addition to iOS and Android, we are also seeing new entrants such as Mozilla, Ubuntu and Tizen. Considering the past, it is obvious that there is no safe bet on which OS will prevail."
The Motorola official added that from an industry perspective, mobility is no longer considered a cutting edge trend.
Chief information officers (CIOs) and Chief technology officers (CTOs) are starting to realise that mobility should be at the core of their business.
This growing interest in mobility is what drives the enterprise app market today.
"Today's mobile enterprises started investing in mobility years ago, and have a ready strategy that they can execute and finetune to ensure it delivers true value at a manageable cost. These enterprises are demanding enterprise class applications that can further realise benefits from their mobility infrastructure."
At the same time, he added, other enterprises who have yet to embark on a mobility strategy are now realising that they are being left behind by competitors who leverage mobility to grow their business, differentiate their offerings and provide superior customer service.
"These increase demand for mobility solutions, including business applications."
He noted that one challenge faced by application developers is the need to develop apps for use on multiple device platforms.
Factors such as screen size, resolution and how input is gathered have to be taken into account to ensure compelling user experiences across all devices.
The Motorola official noted that the company recently launched the RhoMobile Suite, a cross platform development framework that enables customers and partners to develop native applications using the Web and HTML5.
"The RhoMobile Suite allows developers to write an application once and have it look and act the same on different mobile devices regardless of the current operating system. This new technology enables the future-proofing of applications, allowing them to continue running and performing on current and next generation enterprise and consumer devices."
HTML5 (version 5) is the next-generation of HTML coding which is used to design most Web pages.
This latest version of HTML is designed to provide a comprehensive application development platform for Web pages that eliminates the need to install third-party browser plug-ins such as Java and Flash.
Mr Kirstein noted that in a multi-OS environment within the enterprise, security is a major challenge.
There are two ways to handle this. The first is, to use corporate-owned devices that allow CIOs and CTOs to ensure enterprise-grade security.
"However, this option will limit enterprises to Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded Compact as platform choices. Another choice is Motorola Solutions' recently launched and highly secured enterprise grade version of the Android operating system."
The second option, according to him, is to turn to the more traditional approach of mobile device management (MDM).
"This is used in conjunction with corporate-owned devices that can be controlled down to the minute detail. However, users may not be willing to allow IT personnel to manage their devices."
All this leads to a potential third option which is application management.
"In this instance, enterprises manage only enterprise apps that are on the device. Managing these applications allows enterprises to secure and isolate the data within the application, enabling them to control when upgrades occur. In the case of loss or theft, sensitive data from the applications can be remotely wiped without affecting the use of the device for other functions," Mr Kirstein said.