2013: The year of the new 'cross platform' | Mobile Development | Mobile Entertainment

2013: The year of the new 'cross platform'

2013: The year of the new 'cross platform'
Daniel Gumble

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Development / HTML 5 / January 9th 2013 at 10:00AM

This week’s Intel Blog looks at how one idea could significantly alter the mobile landscape.

It’s traditional to try to predict the tech trends we can expect to see this year, but I thought I would focus on just one idea that might well change the entire industry. We’ll probably know it as something else - if it even acquires a name - but for now I’ll call it the ‘new cross-platform’.

When we talk about the cross platform challenge, we usually mean getting software designed on one platform to work on another. Pretty much since the beginning of the commercial software industry, companies have been working out the most effective way to get their software onto different platforms. Each platform represents a whole new market, with not just potential customers but also competitors who might become strong enough in that market to take you on in your own. If you don’t eat their lunch, they’re going to eat yours. It makes sense, especially in today’s rapid software market, to have a presence on as many platforms as possible, as quickly as possible.

Over the last year, HTML5 won a lot of credibility as a cross-platform development approach. It can’t do everything that native development can, but it can be a strong solution for many apps, especially those for casual gaming, puzzles, social networking or data reporting. With Microsoft actively encouraging developers to use HTML5 to create apps for the new Windows Store, developers who haven’t yet adopted HTML5 would be wise to take another look at it. I think we’ll see it become increasingly important, especially to developers of Ultrabook applications.

That’s the traditional meaning of ‘cross platform’, then: it’s all about what developers do to make their software run on different devices.

In 2013, I predict we’ll see two new trends, which will have an impact on how we view app development.

The first trend is that users will increasingly adopt devices that incorporate touch screens and keyboards, such as the Ultrabook, as Windows 8 wins more market share. Hybrid devices that enable the hardware to be reconfigured for use as a tablet or a computer will become increasingly popular, so people can choose to switch the form factor of their device depending on the activity they undertake or where they are. They might prefer a tablet device on the bus or the sofa, and a keyboard in the office, for example. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing different activities in those places, though, so the implications for software development are huge. Apps will need to work for both touch users and keyboard users. Most importantly, they will have to work for both at the same time.  Once people are accustomed to a touch screen, they use it instinctively whenever it’s easiest or they want to. You can’t say there are some things people will always do using the screen or the keyboard. Someone might use keyboard shortcuts they know well together with the touch screen, or might find it easiest to touch or type just one part of what they’re doing.

This means your software will always be running cross-platform: it will be for both touch and keyboard-based platforms, for tablets and computers, and this will all be the same user using the same physical device.

The second trend we’ll see is that users will raise their expectations of their software, and will expect devices to play nicely together. At the moment, we’re used to being able to read our email on multiple devices, or we might use a cloud-based music player to listen to our favourite albums, whatever device we have to hand. But what happens when people start to expect that kind of cross-platform flexibility in everything they do? Why can’t somebody start to play your game on their Android phone and pick it up later on their tablet device at home? Or leave their computer in the office, but continue working on their tablet on the commute?

This is the new cross-platform: there remains a challenge for developers to deliver software to different platforms that might be technically incompatible. But this year we will see a new challenge rise; some devices will include hardware and usability challenges that used to be present in several different devices; and users will want to move between platforms without feeling tethered to any one device by your software.

Are you up to the new cross platform challenge?

This blog post is written by Softtalkblog, and is sponsored by the Intel Developer Zone, which helps you to develop, market and sell software and apps for prominent platforms and emerging technologies powered by Intel Architecture.

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