5 pioneering paths for software development's new frontier

Forward-thinking dev shops mix methodologies, hire cross-functional coders -- beating old-guard shops to the hottest emerging app markets

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To Holst, the solution lies in application analytics: real-time harvesting of data from application behaviors as per Telerik's work. Applico's idea is to expand the way we perform and automate testing -- not to displace analytics as a test methodology, but to use the cloud as a way to reduce the burden of testing.

Two of the most widely used tools for automation, Puppet and Chef, are also being used in creative ways.

"Using Chef and cloud servers for manual testing is fantastic," says Frankel, "since those servers will only be used occasionally for a few hours. When we're done testing, we turn off the lights and avoid paying for idle capacity. It only takes a single command to re-create a new staging environment the next time we want to test." The same process is also possible with Puppet.

5. HTML5 -- a handy, albeit hyped, solution for increasing device fragmentation
Given the current focus on mobile-first development, a great deal of attention is being paid to HTML5 and what role it will play. On the one hand, developers are quickly jumping into HTML5, because not doing so would be self-defeating. On the other hand, HTML5 is clearly no cure-all.

Applico's Powers takes a dim view of HTML5 as a mobile platform.

"HTML5 will never catch up to native development," he insists. "If you think of running everything in a Web view, you're just abstracting a layer between yourself and the native code. It's always going to be a step behind, and as new versions of the OSes come out, tools like PhoneGap and Titanium have to react to those changes."

In his opinion, HTML5 is best used for enterprise apps, such as a data-submission form, not immersive-experience apps.

Powers described experiences in his work that shed further light on this. Applico competitors lured clients away from Applico, offering to build apps with HTML5 at half the cost Applico quoted. "Eight months later, those clients would come back to us and say, 'We made the wrong decision; we went with someone that promised us the world and didn't really understand the limitations of the technologies.'"

Last year, Hung LeHong and Jackie Fenn, both of Gartner, placed HTML5 at the "peak of inflated expectations" on Gartner's annual Hype Cycle Report, estimating it would be five to 10 years before the real plateau for the standard could be reached. Yet many developers are embracing HTML5 and find Gartner's analysis to be way off-base.

Kendo UI, a division of Telerik, performed its own studies and found that 82 percent of developers "find HTML5 important to their job within the next 12 months," with 31 percent planning to use it and 63 percent actively developing in it.

That said, the phrasing of these questions doesn't speak to developer preferences, only to what developers are doing -- that is, building HTML5 apps because it's part of their job description. What's more, another survey sponsored by Appcelerator and IDC for 2012 found that most of the mobile developers surveyed were "neutral to dissatisfied with HTML5" in several categories, including performance (72.4 percent of those surveyed), fragmentation (75.4 percent), and user experience (62 percent). This is striking in light of how an earlier survey by the same group asked developers, "Do you plan to integrate HTML5 as a component into the mobile apps you plan to build in 2012?" -- to which 79 percent answered yes.

Todd Anglin, vice president for HTML5 Web and mobile Tools at Telerik, questioned this conclusion, and not just because of the rapid development of HTML5 on all sides: "Developers should note that the new 'native' Facebook apps still include HTML5 in sections where Facebook wants the ability to change things more quickly," Anglin wrote, referencing the much discussed shift Facebook undertook in 2012 to native mobile apps due to shortcomings it experienced with HTML5.

In short, for now HTML5 may be best thought of as merely one ingredient in an application's overall composition, rather than the way to create an app.

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