Positioning itself to enable enterprise software to make the leap from the cloud to employees’ handheld devices in 2016, Microsoft recently acquired Xamarin, the cross-platform .NET development environment. But most agree that cross-platform mobile frameworks like Xamarin, React Native, AngularJS, Cordova/PhoneGap and the like—while they have their fans—are an incomplete answer to the mobile imperative.
According to a seminal June 2015 blog by Google developer Alex Russell, “Many platforms have attempted to make it possible to gain access to ‘exotic’ capabilities while still allowing developers to build with the client-side technology of the Web. In doing so, they usually jettison one or more aspects of the shared value system. They aren’t bad—many are technically brilliant—but they aren’t of the Web.”
According to Russell, the alternative is a new class of applications that:
- responds to form factor
- can work offline
- have app-like interactions
- refresh in the background
- are secure via Transport Layer Security
- use W3C manifests to be discoverable as apps
- use push notifications
- are installable to the home screen, and
- are linkable, because “The social power of URLs matters.”
Why “progressive”? According to Russell’s blog, “Sites that want to send you notifications or be on your home screen have to earn that right over time as you use them more and more. They progressively become ‘apps.’”
How did Intuit pivot from Web to mobile? In a word: quickly. Balazs describes how it only took a year to be able to offer the full version of its tax-filing software for 30 million customers.
“We created a development platform for Intuit engineers—codenamed ‘Fuego’—that has played a pivotal role in our mobile transformation,” he said. “Fuego enables the development team to write once and deploy everywhere across the 50,000 screens in TurboTax by delivering user experience as a service.”