As the mobile market continues to be led by the three majors—each with their own operating system and development languages—the debate over native vs. cross-platform application delivery continues.
Solstice Mobile, which today released version 2 of its AppLauncher mobile application ALM solution, comes down squarely on the side of native.
“A lot of folks are providing tools for ‘write once, deploy across multiple platforms,’ ” said J Schwan, founder and CEO of Solstice Mobile. “I don’t think that will ever be the answer for creating unique user experiences for each platform.” While cross-platform development hedges the bet, and third-party platforms and APIs come and go, “native will always be there,” he noted. “That’s the real power of AppLauncher.”
Most mobile application tools on the market today are lacking from an enterprise standpoint, Schwan said, because the tools are focused on the individual developer. “Build and test automation, collaboration, static code analysis…these are where existing tools fall down.”
AppLauncher was launched as a continuous-integration tool that Solstice could use internally and on customer engagements, said Schwan. But when the company realized numerous efficiencies and the ability to mentor developers with it, Solstice Mobile began a productization effort that culminated in the first release at the beginning of 2012.
The new version adds additional user-interface and experience capabilities, and encourages the use of standard technologies (such as Java for Android development) for native application development, Schwan said.
From a CI tool, AppLauncher morphed into an ALM tool, covering organizations from project kickoff through build, test integration, analytics and deployment, according to Andrew Whiting, vice president of products at Solstice. AppLauncher offers a centralized repository that connects to SCM systems, and then connects the artifacts therein to the testing environment. “A team lead configures the application project, identifies the team setup, where the source is stored, who gets the artifacts for testing, and where it will be deployed,” he explained.
AppLauncher provides enterprises with continuous integration and on-demand builds for Android, HTML5 and iOS apps, according to the company’s formal announcement. It also helps speed up the development process by enabling collaboration on feedback and corrections to be made in real time.
Another key piece to AppLauncher is static code analysis. Schwan explained that AppLauncher leverages the open-source Sonar analytics engine to create what he called “an integrated experience from the end-user perspective.” Solstice has written mobile-specific rules on top of the platform that help organizations determine the quality of the code being created. “You can be flagged immediately if the code doesn’t follow a particular protocol,” Whiting said.
Among the quality metrics AppLauncher can deliver are “launchability,” which Whiting said shows how close an application is to being ready to be deployed. It’s a metric for executives who don’t need a lot of the nitty-gritty but only want to know the status of the work in progress.
Another of the metrics measures technical debt, or, as Whiting explained, the amount of work required to get an app up to good quality standards. “All our tooling has mobile first and enterprise as 1-A,” he said. “We integrate with tools such as [Microsoft] Team Foundation Server, so [customers] can leverage their existing infrastructures, and that has tremendous value.”