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Native vs Cross Platform Development

On http://www.iapps.net.au/media/whitepapers/NativeVsCrossPlatformDevelopment.pdf An Age-old Dilemma. Ah yes. There is an age-old debate in software development that rages constantly, and has been again re-ignited with the explosion of mobile development in the last few years. The fundamental argument is whether it is better to develop native applications for a platform (Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Phone, MACOS, iOS) as opposed to utilising a build-once-deploy-many (also known as cross-platform compilation, or platform-agnostic development) which may be achieved with a variety of approaches, all with associated benefits and drawbacks. The key here is what exactly does better mean? Does it mean faster to develop? Easier to maintain? More robust in production? Makes best use of platform features? It is the definition of what you call better that essentially drives your choice. One of the most famous of all cross-platform languages and platforms is Java. However, without a Java Platform in iOS, one of the largest mobile operating systems, this becomes no longer a viable candidate in this context. Other more recent popular choices have been Adobe Flash (delivered through Adobe Air), PhoneGap, Titanium, Appcelerator and many others. These platforms actually do support a wide selection of mobile devices, and are built for a number of different target application types, but they do so in a variety of ways and to a varying level of success. It is therefore important to change the question to a more realistic one, perhaps “which is better to use for a given particular set of requirements?” would be a more worthwhile question. About the Author: Andrew Longhorn is the CTO and co-founder of iApps Pty Ltd, a specialist mobile application development company with offices in Australia and Asia. iApps deliver mobile solutions to individuals, companies and government utilising the best tool for the job, via a mobile web app, a cross-compiled binary or a fully native solution for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows. Andrew has a wealth of corporate and government systems integration and experience from spending the last 25 years in software engineering with companies such as Accenture, British Aerospace, Aspect (KAZ), and EMC.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Published in: Business      
Source: www.slideshare.net


Transcripts - Native vs Cross Platform Development

  • 1. vs Nativevs Cross Platform Development
  • 2. Page 2 | White Paper—Native vs Cross Platform Development White Paper Native vs Cross Platform Development vs An Age-old Dilemma Ah yes. There is an age-old debate in software development that rages constantly, and has been again re-ignited with the explosion of mobile development in the last few years. The fundamental argument is whether it is better to develop native applications for a platform (Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Phone, MACOS, iOS) as opposed to utilising a build-once-deploy-many (also known as cross-platform compilation, or platform-agnostic development) which may be achieved with a variety of approaches, all with associated benefits and drawbacks. The key here is what exactly does better mean? Does it mean faster to develop? Easier to maintain? More robust in production? Makes best use of platform features? It is the definition of what you call better that essentially drives your choice. One of the most famous of all cross-platform languages and platforms is Java. However, without a Java Platform in iOS, one of the largest mobile operating systems, this becomes no longer a viable candidate in this context. Other more recent popular choices have been Adobe Flash (delivered through Adobe Air), PhoneGap, Titanium, Appcelerator and many others. These platforms actually do support a wide selection of mobile devices, and are built for a number of different target application types, but they do so in a variety of ways and to a varying level of success. It is therefore important to change the question to a more realistic one, perhaps “which is better to use for a given particular set of requirements?” would be a more worthwhile question.
  • 3. Page 3 | White Paper—Native vs Cross Platform Development White Paper Native vs Cross Platform Development The Natives are Restless Native development is a term given to software development where the application developer typically uses the main development language, tools and frameworks for the platform being targeted. Native development, as it is applied to the mobile software industry, is akin to using Objective-C and XCode for iOS, Java and Eclipse for Android and RIM and yet another language and compiler for the Windows Phone platform. The Pros of such an approach have always been argued around the ability of the expert programmer for each platform utilising the full capabilities of the language, the compilers, the SDK and the capabilities of the hardware to its maximum. But this requires specific skills and that has also been flagged as a “con” due to the perceived cost of employing experts for each platform. The offshoot of this approach is that it typically results in disparate complete software code bases for each platform, which can be seen as both a pro and a con (depending on who you talk to). There is a REAL additional cost with having a single code base that is rarely actually taken into consideration until later, when it becomes apparent. In the end, the “purists” argue that you will never be able to achieve the same result as a dedicated application written for a specific platform when you try and use a program or platform to take some generic code and translate it to that platform, or run it on that platform within another program. C# C++
  • 4. Page 4 | White Paper—Native vs Cross Platform Development White Paper Native vs Cross Platform Development Cross-Platform Systems In Cross-platform approaches (the “holy grail” of software development) the premise is that an application maker can design and create an application using a single language or tool set, and through “clicking a button” instantly deploy for a variety of platforms. The Pros of this approach have long been touted as the need to only maintain a single code base (or “project”) and have a fix for any problem immediately available for any platform. Another benefit has also been represented that this approach greatly reduces the cost of software development as the one code base requires less testing. There are also a number of ways people try to provide a cross-platform solution (competing with each other) by either compiling to a native application, providing an interpreter framework, embedding web code (HTML/CSS) in little more than a simple web browser based app shell and even as far as creating a simple mobile-enabled web app. The real crux of the argument for the cross-platform evangelists is the belief that every application requirement can be modeled in an abstracted form and run in a “good enough” fashion to provide a great experience on every device.
  • 5. Page 5 | White Paper—Native vs Cross Platform Development White Paper Native vs Cross Platform Development True Costs in Development One of the biggest “beliefs” or “sales facts” touted by the providers of cross-platform tools are the supposed “cost savings” that can be realised. Unfortunately this can only be relied upon in the simplest of application requirements for two undeniable reasons. They are, the true cost of development and the true cost of maintenance. The True Cost of Maintenance The secondary concern is again centred around the distinct potential disadvantage of having a single code base. If a particular issue is found and fixed, or a new capability on one platform is added, the ENTIRE SUITE of target applications must be fully tested again, even if the change was specific to only one platform. The fact that the code is used for all platforms makes it a mandatory overhead to test on each and every platform every time a change is ready to be submitted. And a change for a particular platform may have an unforeseen effect on an unrelated platform that would otherwise not have existed. So, in essence, any real “cost saving” is debatable at best, and is generally limited to simpler applications created on free cross-platform tools that are distributed to a smaller subset of platforms. The True Cost of Development The real truth to be aware of is the percentage of cost that actually goes into software construction as apposed to design, project management, graphics, administration, testing, testing and testing, rework and eventual publication. When you look at a typical mobile application development, there are overheads in requirements gathering, analysis, high level design and platform-specific design considerations, such as form factor, capabilities in operating system and hardware and other such concerns. The truth is that, in a lot of cases the potential cost savings of utilising a cross-platform approach typically only translate to a reduction in the one function, and that is the application coder himself. In other words, the design process, the requirements gathering, the creation of graphics assets, the consideration for each platform, the testing for each platform and more remain constant at best, and can sometimes become MORE costly. When you take into account the fact that a large number of these cross-platform environments introduce a capital or recurring cost to employ, and also potentially increase the cost in having to make specific targeted changes to support certain idiosyncrasies of some platforms, the perceived savings can actually become less compelling. The larger issue, that does not get much mention until it is too late, is the problem that is created by virtue of the perceived benefit in the first place, that is the single code base. This actually can cause a multiplication of cost instead of a reduction in cost. As a problem may be highlighted on a certain platform during testing, a coding fix must be, by definition re-tested against ALL platforms, it will not be isolated to a specific platform, this increases the testing cost and time lines.
  • 6. Page 6 | White Paper—Native vs Cross Platform Development White Paper Native vs Cross Platform Development Specific Capability for a Given Platform It is also interesting that many of these platforms provide a mechanism to use a native plug-in capability to provide access to some functionality on a particular platform that cannot be encapsulated in their system. This highlights two concerns, firstly, the supplier understands that they cannot create a perfect system (ever) for all requirements, so they allow you to “plug-in” specific pieces of native code to resolve certain issues they know exist. Secondly, who do they think will have the skills to actually create the plug-in code? Will it be the specific language coders for the platform in question, the very people they are trying to save a cost on employing? Is it also valid to rely on a platform to take the place of a skill-set? Many cross-platform solutions purportedly allow non-developers to use alternate skill sets (web designers, etc) to generate an application. This is, in one way, similar to providing a set of tools that allows an accountant to work on your car, instead of having to employ a mechanic. The documentation may support it and give a certain formula to succeed in many common situations, but if something requires some knowledge of the underlying platform or language that the accountant does not have, how can he rectify the situation? Limitations in General When researching cross-platform solutions, it’s important to take notice of ANY grumblings or noted shortfalls people have encountered when using a particular approach and understand them in the context of your own organisation and your own requirements. Statements such as “does not support threads, but mitigates that limitation through allowing for a different approach” should not be taken lightly in your decision without understanding the ramifications of the limitation on your project. Application size is also potentially impacted with an overhead of not only having to download the contents of the application itself (mainly consisting of the graphic and audio/visual components packaged in your app, as well as the code for the app), but also including the “runtime” component of the cross-platform solution, or the potential overhead introduced into the compiled code if the cross-compilation tool does not optimise the code well for the given platform. This may, in some case, double the size of your app. This can impact on the desire people have to download your app, the time they have to wait (and the potential data cost to them), and ultimately the user experience. Performance is another concern. It is widely accepted by both sides to this debate that although emulators and cross-compilers are getting better in matching native app speed, a good programmer will always be able to get better performance out of a specific platform when programming an app natively. Generic cross-compilers or run-time interpreters simply cannot make the same assumptions about what the app is trying to achieve, and although it’s also true that a poor developer will potentially always do more damage in that respect, generally a poor programmer is always a danger to any project regardless of the toolset.
  • 7. Page 7 | White Paper—Native vs Cross Platform Development White Paper Native vs Cross Platform Development Summary When looking at application development it is important to choose the right tool for the job. Unfortunately, no one can supply one perfect single approach, or platform, to perfectly meet all the app requirements in the world. I guess it could be argued that they have not yet been able to, and maybe they will eventually, but so far they haven’t and that fact is not in dispute. So there is a place for native application development... and for web applications and mobile sites... and for cross-platform solutions... AND for interpreted or “wrapped” code. They need to be used at the right time and selected based on the actual requirements. As there is no “one size fits all”, it’s important to start any project by employing a specialist that understands the merits of each approach. It is only through understanding the requirements fully, and understanding the benefits of each approach that you will truly be able to select the most efficient and cost effective platform that will meet your development needs for that project both now, and into the future. Andrew Longhorn About the Author: Andrew Longhorn is the CTO and co-founder of iApps Pty Ltd, a specialist mobile application development company with offices in Australia and Asia. iApps deliver mobile solutions to individuals, companies and government utilising the best tool for the job, via a mobile web app, a cross-compiled binary or a fully native solution for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows. Andrew has a wealth of corporate and government systems integration and experience from spending the last 25 years in software engineering with companies such as Accenture, British Aerospace, Aspect (KAZ), and EMC.

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