Whilst mobile app usage continues to soar, studies suggest consumers spend nearly half their time using games and a third in social networking apps. It seems mobile is currently offering the most engaging experience on a personal level but how has this tremendous change to the way we think about computing impacted companies like Enable?
Two senior members of Enable’s development team, Matt Brooks and Matt Sharpe, explain how mobile computing platforms have facilitated growth and innovation for Enable and our clients.
Five years ago, we were building web application logic that ran almost exclusively on the server. In this model, the web browser was used as a ’thin client’ purely for presentation purposes, i.e. the user interface. Today, we build web applications that run a significant portion of the application logic within the web browser.
It is the emergence of mobile computing platforms that have helped drive the capabilities of web browsers and accelerate the adoption of web standards for both mobile and the desktop. A mobile device is bundled with a modern web browser and is updated (or replaced) regularly. This was not true in the days where desktop was the only platform. Users would be stuck on the same version of a desktop web browser that would rarely or perhaps never be updated. The popular mobile devices are highly capable in terms of computing power. This is good for Enable and its clients because it means we can deliver cutting edge user experiences targeting the latest capabilities of a modern web browser or mobile device.
Viewing the user’s web browser as a ’thick client’ transfers processing away from the server. This has positive implications for the scalability of an application and also the resources required to run it.
Smartphones have made many computing tasks possible in more locations and settings i.e. ‘on the go’. This is convenient in that you don’t need to be sat at a desk or carrying a laptop, though the trade-off is a much smaller screen and more awkward method of input. Undoubtedly, though, mobile devices provide a widening range of possibilities.
Predominantly, the trend thus far has been for tablets and smartphones to run a huge array of ‘apps’. This can be considered the latest iteration in a cycle of software running locally or remotely and, as Matt Brooks has already mentioned, as the capabilities of web browsers are developed there is an increasing opportunity for the web to provide richer experiences on mobile devices in place of locally-running apps. Enable are taking advantage of these improving capabilities to develop applications that scale automatically from huge desktop monitors to small mobile screens.
Personally for my own use I find an open platform such as the web preferable to closed proprietary environments. There are also benefits for Enable since open standards mean a single web application can run on any device, and not need to be written multiple times for different competing platforms.