Many companies supporting Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) scenarios are looking for a development
option they can use to develop mobile apps that integrate with existing
systems and that scale. Vendors such as SAP, Sage, and
Microsoft continue rolling out mobile applications that tie into their own platforms
in the enterprise.

But for companies seeking custom solutions or that want to
have various applications on multiple devices it comes down to investing in a mobile enterprise application development infrastructure. Many
cross-platform development schemes focus more on the client side than robust integration options, leaving some enterprises to choose between a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) or a native
development approach. (There are many
enterprises that don’t need anything as comprehensive as a MEAP or
full-scale native development.)

Deciding whether MEAP is the way to go

Gartner‘s famous “The Rule of Three” maxim breaks down the MEAP decision process to the number of apps, the
number of device classes, and the number of app updates per year. In each case,
if they total less than three, MEAP is probably not a realistic mobile development approach for the company. Also, those that don’t have to integrate
with existing systems can direct their users to the apps supplied by the
enterprise application vendors of the services involved. 

If an enterprise decides to go the MEAP route, the list of
requirements for a solution can look like this:

  • Integration into existing systems.
  • Ability to access other data streams on the chosen mobile
    platform.
  • Support for Apple, Android, RIM, and Windows.
  • Customization options using in-house developers.
  • One platform for all in-house and external applications, with
    enterprise pricing for existing and new developments.
  • Simplicity, especially the ease of integration and quick
    deployment.
  • Write once and deploy anywhere.

MEAP anxiety

All of those requirements can pale in comparison to the
anxiety that might accompany selecting a MEAP, since they are not easy to move
away from once they’re deployed, according to Daniel Maycock, consultant for Slalom Consulting. As expected, not all MEAP solutions are created
equal, and companies looking for these solutions often place a premium on
flexibility.

Ideally, says Regev Yativ, president and CEO of Magic Software
Enterprises Americas
, enterprises shouldn’t have to be forced into
selecting single-environment development tools for their mobile applications.
When that happens, he says, it removes the option to deliver the best value to
the customer, and it forces the development process to go in one direction
only, even though another one might be better. He uses the examples of users’
preferences not to have different interfaces on multiple devices, and for
interfaces to “feel” like what they’re used to.

Yativ draws a distinction between his company’s MEAP offering and
others by highlighting the idea of choice. When using Magic, development can
proceed natively or in hybrid mode, which includes part native and part HTML5
or strictly in HTML5. He says the solution reduces code writing because of
precompiled components that are already organized in the way they’re used.
Overall, he says, coding is reduced by about 50%. Less code doesn’t necessarily
equal less data.

Application development for mobile has its share of big data to
deal with, such as running multiple apps on multiple servers and using
dispersed databases, explains Yativ. Along with those challenges comes storage
issues like whether to store the data locally or externally. Especially for new
enterprises, says Yativ, data proliferation is one of the biggest problems. So,
perhaps in reinforcing its mantra of “Outperform the Future,” Magic
has incorporated big data tools into its mobility offering.

Magic xpi Business Process Editor | Image credit: Magic Software (See an enlarged view of the image.)
Magic xpi Data Mapper | Image credit: Magic Software (See an enlarged view of the image.)

Breaking down the silos

For all the challenges associated with mobile development,
Yativ sees treating the process in a silo as not being optimum and that the
best answer is integration as part of the overall architecture, something he
says is enabled with Magic because the solution delivers the whole architecture
rather than just one piece. That advantage ties into the solution’s performance.

In any development environment, speed and efficiency are always
concerns; one area where that is a primary focus is how quickly developers can
get up to speed on a platform. Speed, according to Yativ, has always been
Magic’s claim to fame, going back through its more than 30 years in the
industry. Yativ says a programmer who has no previous experience with Magic will be able to write a small app within two to three weeks.

Yativ acknowledges the general expectation that mobile
development tools should be inexpensive, and claims Magic fits that bill. What
he terms as a “full studio” starting point costs about $5,000, and
for those looking to develop a mid-range project the cost scales up to $50,000
– $60,000.