Despite the gold-rush atmosphere around mobile application development, you won't find many newbie-friendly tools aligned to help nonprogrammers mine for application riches. Even if the target platforms often seem like toys, most of the development kits are still developer-minded and code-centric, and they can present formidable hurdles to the uninitiated.
Stories by James R. Borck
Mobile development is as much about UI artistry and screen flow as technical programming. This premium on presentation means that the most important skills for building mobile apps are more likely to be found in your Web developers than your Objective-C coders.
If only it were as easy to build a Web application as it is to design one in Illustrator and Photoshop. Maybe it will be someday, and maybe that someday is closer than we might think. Adobe has certainly succeeded in shrinking the distance between design and development with its latest batch of RIA tools: Adobe Flex 4 SDK, Adobe Flash Builder 4 (the Flex Builder IDE renamed), and Adobe Flash Catalyst, all recently made available in public beta.
Hot on the heels of Microsoft's Silverlight 2 release, Adobe AIR 1.5 adds impressive new features to the desktop extension of Adobe's Flex RIA (rich Internet application) platform. This is the second update since AIR's debut earlier this year, a testament to Adobe's seriousness about owning a piece of the desktop.
If any software market deserved to be shaken up by open source alternatives, it's enterprise data integration. Commercial, enterprise-grade integration tools -- typically cobbled together from M&A and legacy patchworks -- are notoriously unwieldy and impose an arduous learning curve. Complexity frequently stalls deployments by months, and aftermarket consulting can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the TCO.
Sun Microsystems recently unveiled the first public beta of its JavaFX framework for RIAs (rich Internet applications). There's a lot to like about the new SDK. It's rich in capabilities, and its Java-like syntax makes it a good springboard to RIAs for Java developers. But even in Java shops, Sun and JavaFX are behind not just one eight ball but two. Heavyweight competitors Adobe and Microsoft, with Flex/AIR and Silverlight, respectively, offer RIA toolsets that are not only far more mature but also include tools that bridge the all-important gap between designers and coders.
The most well-rounded business process management system (BPMS) we've tested to date, Lombardi Software's Teamworks combines an execution and events monitoring engine with a close-knit IDE and tools for modeling and simulation analysis. With the inclusion of human-centric, collaborative workflow and services-based integration hooks, Teamworks can deliver near-seamless mapping, testing, and deployment to execute most any enterprise workflow. Where Teamworks truly stands out from other players is its well-integrated performance server, which draws on a unified tracking data store for both real-time process optimization and historical playback in design phase analysis, where testing for optimal flow and efficiency can be challenging.
The success of a BPM (business process management) initiative hangs on a good plan. Spend too little time developing a snapshot of your company's inner workings, and the resulting system of misfiring rules and unhandled exceptions will find you mired in costly troubleshooting. But, sure enough, you can also lean too far in the other direction. Spend too much time charting workflow definitions, control points, and exception management, and the delays will start whittling away at your ROI.
For improving the look and feel of browser-based applications, AJAX technologies work wonders, but RIAs (rich Internet applications) take the browser to a whole new level. RIAs deliver a consistently richer user experience, with functionality and data access more closely approximating native desktop apps.
Adobe AIR 1.0 brings new hope to Web developers looking to combine the global connectedness of browser-based applications with the persistence and functionality of first-class, local desktop apps.