Tool vendors chase mobile development bandwagon

Another day, another mobile app dev tool both entices and confuses developers

Given the ongoing mobile craze, it's no surprise that the number of software development tools and services for building smartphone and tablet apps keeps growing. Startup and established tool vendors are both trying to entice developers to use their coding, management, and testing tools. Frankly, it can be tough to decipher what exactly is new and what falls under the category of "we've seen this before."

Consider the happenings of the last couple weeks:

  • Telerik's Icenium unit this week launched a cloud-based mobile development service intended to remove the dependency on SDKs.
  • Also unveiled this week, promises to help developers track how users are actually using their applications by assessing gestures and touch-based interactions.
  • Microsoft last week added iOS support to its Windows Azure Mobile Services, for connecting client and mobile apps to a cloud back end. It also added Facebook, Twitter, and Google authentication support.

These all come on top of well-known tools that include Adobe's PhoneGap, Apple's Xcode, Google's Android Development Tools, and Appcelerator's Titanium.

The mushrooming in mobile application development tools is no surprise to IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "This pocket of the app dev market is one of the hottest right now and is already growing rapidly. The opportunity is expanding as big companies begin to tackle mobile development in a serious way."

Hilwa says what's happening now is very much like what happened in the early days of PCs, when the PC was competing with Unix workstations and the Mac. "These were the days that saw a large number of tools come to the market to support building custom apps," he notes, citing once-high-flying tools PowerBuilder, Borland, and Uniface.

As happened in the early PC days, acquisitions will follow suit. They already have: Motorola Solutions (the Motorola that does proprietary networking gear and field-service devices, not the Motorola that does Android devices) acquired Rhomobile last year. Adobe acquired PhoneGap from Nitobi last year as well.

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