The 9 barriers for Cross-Platform App Development Tools to take off – Interview with Martin Wilson CEO of Appear

Lack of awareness among the app developer community and the challenge to keep up with the high innovation speed of mobile platforms are the main barriers for Cross-Platform Tool vendors and service providers.

With Martin Wilson, CEO of Appear, we have talked about the barriers, chances of second line mobile platforms like Mozilla and WindowsPhone, the impact of Google Glass and the major trends in the Cross-Platform Vendor market. Appear is a mobility platform provider targeting independent software vendors to create enterprise HTML5 apps.

As a gift for the readers and a small promo, Martin shares a 20% discount code for all their services at the end of the interview.

CPT barriers

r2g: Martin, you have seen the results of our Cross Platform Tools 2014 benchmarking about the main market barriers for CPT vendors. Which barriers for CPT service providers do you see?

Martin Wilson (Appear):  One barrier we see is the proprietary APIs / languages. This scares some developers away from mobile as they are afraid of making a wrong decision. We believe very much in making sure that any development done using our platform can be future proof i.e. can be both portable to other platforms and approaches as well as compatible with new mobile OSs’ releases.

Another barrier we see is the reluctance of some developers to believe that CPT approaches can deliver native-like experience. As some of our partners have discovered, these are largely unfounded concerns.

Some providers have also faced challenges with their business model. The upfront investments which developers have had to make in terms of the learning-curve and the infrastructure, has proved prohibitive to the adoption of their CPT platforms. We have sought to address these two concerns with our business model approach. The possibility to reuse of existing skills for ISVs moving to mobile reduces the learning curve investment, and the cloud pricing cuts down on the necessary upfront investment.

Martin, can you please briefly describe your service offering.

We offer Appear IQ which is a platform for the development and execution of enterprise mobile solutions. It is available as a cloud service, although customers can choose to host it themselves. Appear IQ speeds up the development and delivery of professional, cross-platform mobile solutions integrated with existing backend software and IT systems. It allows for the centralized management of production deployments, including apps, user and security management and can be integrated with existing MDM solutions. Our customers execute their mobile solutions without having to think too much about upfront investment in infrastructure or scaling.

Additionally, we provide expert support to ensure our partner projects are a roaring success.

Which trends do you see in the market for CP Tools and services?  

Looking at the enterprise segment, we can see a mass adoption of web browser technologies like HTML5 as a viable alternative to native.

Another trend we have noticed in the course of the past year is the demise of the 4GL/”drag&drop” studio. We believe this is a good thing for the developer community as it recognizes the competence of developers – puts the power back into their hands. Open source is another trend and we expect it to become even more significant.

Besides, there is an increasing momentum around MBaaS (Mobile Backend as a Service) solutions, a low-intrusion approach which allows developers to add backend functionality, where they do not have it, and also to access their own backend from their cross-platform apps while limiting any performance impact on the existing systems. As cloud APIs are increasingly adopted by developers, MBaaS means anyone can quickly get apps to market and then scale. This truly opens up the market to new entrants.

In addition, there is also an increasing integration with popular frameworks, allowing developers to use their preferred technology and at the same time take advantage of new CPT features.

I also think that there will be a second wave of connected apps, which will take advantage of mobility platforms in order to join both existing IT systems and the Internet of Things (IoT). In the field service environments, the first wave of apps helped automate existing paper processes, the second wave will include people, systems and physical environment that affects those processes. Appear is now focusing on supporting this second wave and our  collaboration with developers enables us to be at the forefront of these trends which drive some major changes in how apps are developed and operated.

Which mobile platforms, other than iOS and Android, will be the most important in the future?  

With still almost a monopoly in enterprise (laptop/desk) IT, we see the free licensing of Windows & Windows Phone for sub-9-inch devices giving Microsoft the best chance in years for grabbing a substantial market share. Do not forget their origins in the business world got them into almost every home PC on the planet – and a similar scenario could play out again as the dust settles in the mobile ecosystem.

Firefox is also a valid contender and we should not underestimate what the economies such as China and India can bring in.

For CPT service providers, how important  will mobile operating systems for accessories such Google Glass (Tizen) or game consoles  become in the next 3 years?  

We have been experimenting with the headset predecessors like Glass and other similar devices for a number of years, but only since recently we see the popularity of these devices growing significantly. In enterprise applications that ISVs address – such as warehousing and public safety, there are applications which until now have been too expensive due to the hardware. The fact that these devices are mass-produced for consumer applications, lowers their price. This together with the cloud and CPT development means that the business case for some truly awesome apps is viable. The new operating systems for these devices pose new challenges for CPT service providers and also demonstrate an even greater need for an approach to unify and connect the devices together with the back office.  We see the need to include support for the mix of devices (sensors/the “Internet of Things”) as essential if CP Tools are to continue adding value to partners’ software.

How do you manage the rapid technological development? For example, in the last iOS release there have been about 2,000 new APIs and Samsung has built new sensors in the devices.

Our team is continually keeping track of the latest APIs and our product management evaluates carefully what should be included in the product. We also engage regularly with our partners to discuss their upcoming requirements to ensure we stay ahead of the market needs. We do not reinvent the wheel – if there are components out there that support these capabilities, we add those to the platform. With Cross-Platform Tools it is important to recognize that there will always be some special cases and apps which will work differently on one device over another. Giving developers the flexibility and choice to make their own decisions about how to implement is what we strive for.

How to keep the focus as CPT service provider?  

Appear is fully committed to our ISV partners’ success. We have built a sound business on a vision of the enterprise world that resonates with their own needs. We are now focused on executing that vision and helping our ISV partners to offer their own compelling solutions for their own enterprise customers.

How to select the right CP Tool or Service? What would be your advice for app developers?

We recommend that they select a tool that:

– allows their development team to be productive quickly – and use their preferred tech stack;

– allows them to build future-proof solutions without getting tied to one provider;

– allows growth in line with their own success (i.e. with minimal upfront investment).

What is your favorite app?

In terms of my personal favorite, I guess it would have to be either Spotify or Shazam (or the combination of the two). I love the way you can grab a tune from wherever you hear it and then listen to it whenever you feel like it.

In terms of Appear’s client implementations, I would say the Site Diary app which is used by construction companies such as Costain. This app has transformed the lives of the construction site engineers and made management as well as the subsequent review of construction projects so much simpler. Having paper data available for later analysis might seems a natural thing for an office-bound worker today, but there is such an unbelievable amount of paperwork involved in modern construction that using an app instead for at least a part of it, makes much sense. The app itself really feels like a native app and has been praised by its users. It’s a perfect example of what enterprise mobility should look like.

Thank you for the interview.

Here is the 20% discount code for the r2g readers: AIQ-R2G-2014

Use it after testing Appear for free:

To download the Cross Platform Tool Benchmarking 2014 report please click here.

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