Rather than merely devising a mobile application strategy, development shops need to view mobile apps as just one component of a larger, "omni-channel" application architecture, according to an analyst report released this month.
The Forrester Research report, entitled "The Future of Mobile Application Development," urges an omni-channel approach in which software services and applications work everywhere. Netflix, which works on tablets, mobile devices, TVs, laptops and game consoles was cited as an example.
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Forrester stresses the use of modern applications requiring multichannel clients and elastic infrastructure. "To me, the modern app is something which is essentially designed for the cloud," Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond, a co-author of the report, said in an interview. "It's designed to connect those devices over public carrier networks back to those existing systems, which might be in the data center."
Mobile context, the sum total of what customers are saying and experience in mobile engagement, is the future of mobile development, the report states. With companies targeting more devices and platforms, client-side development costs will increase, and applications will need to be built faster than ever. Reducing the costs of software innovation is necessary. "The only way to survive this Catch-22 is to lower the cost of testing new ideas and make it quicker and cheaper to separate the good ideas from the bad," said Forrester.
But the future of mobile application development requires more than adapting to smaller screens, different programming languages and new operating systems, Forrester says. "We're entering a new age of application development that creates modern, compelling systems of engagement and links them with systems of record and systems of operation."
In other highlights:
- Forrester advises combining discrete services into new solutions. Modern applications are composites built from multiple URL endpoints and application frameworks, with the goal of getting to market quickly.
- Stand-alone mobile applications will evolve into pluggable mobile services. "The days of the stand-alone app, with its own icon on the screen and self-contained sets of services, may soon be over. We're seeing a trend where platform vendors are offering more and more platform-specific services that developers leverage."
- Managed APIs are being used to expose application services to third-party developers, thereby creating a "headless" version of services that can be incorporated into digital products and software services. Developers, though, have to think about security, authorization, and real-time management of data.
- Benefits of a mobile service must outweigh inhibitors to adoption. Services must be immediate, simple, and contextual.
- Sensors like barometers and chemical sensors will reveal more information about the users' environment. For example, dual cameras in phones enable depth perception and development of 3D content.
- Motion, voice, and touch will redefine the user interface, with improved display technologies and simplified development tools for motion sensors shifting control of mobile phones to motion and voice. Developers will need to think about supporting more-sophisticated access mechanisms.