Making an app requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Making an app that works on a variety of operating systems and devices requires even more. (Don’t ask me about how many fluids are left for developers to sacrifice. I’m sure neither of us really want to know.)
This is why there are so many services and technologies that promise to make it easier to develop apps that work on as many products as possible. Some rely on Web technologies to make this work. Others perform some kind of technological wizardry that makes a single code base run on multiple platforms. All of them take a frustrating task and make it a little bit easier to bear.
Many of these services focus on iOS and Android — which makes sense, given the popularity of both among developers and consumers alike. Fewer are focused on Windows or Windows Phone, the latter of which is struggling to make a lasting impact on the mobile market. That’s about to change.
Corona Labs is today announcing that it has added support for the operating systems as part of a partnership with Microsoft, which is providing technical support and a business arrangement that Corona Labs COO David Rangel declined to comment on. The company isn’t saying when the support will come to its service, which allows developers to easily make apps and games for iOS and Android, but its decision to support Microsoft’s platforms at all might be a good sign of things to come.
We have all sorts of developers using Corona, from indies to large studios. And especially on the indie side, they want more distribution. So if they can publish to another platform with just about the same amount of work, they will. There’s no easy way to get around the fact that right now there aren’t that many apps, but Microsoft has shown that it’s not going anywhere and will continue to fight for part of the mobile market. We’ll just have to wait.
Some might wonder why companies like Corona Labs, Xamarin, and Appcelerator continue to focus on native technologies despite the many claims that Web technologies can offer many of the same features with less hassle. Rangel’s response — which is like my own response to such criticisms, simply as someone who’s used these Web-based applications — is that the Web just isn’t ready.
Many believe that HTML5 is the future of app development because it can run across many platforms without much work, Rangel says. They expect it to work the same on Android and iOS and Windows by virtue of the fact that the Web is available on all those devices. (Obviously.) “But the problem is that that’s not true,” Rangel says. “These browsers have nuances, they have differences. They just do.” Making a Web app run just as smoothly on Firefox or Internet Explorer as it does on Chrome or Safari requires tinkering, just like these cross-platform services do.
Combine that with the less-than-stellar performance many Web-based applications exhibit, despite the efforts of many developers, and the Web is not yet the blue sky option that many wish it would be. Until it is, companies like Corona Labs will continue to offer these cross-platform solutions that combine the benefits of native apps with the convenience of writing most of an application once and running it almost anywhere.
Now, at least, developers will have more options to reach Windows and Windows Phone instead of being able to develop apps just for iOS and Android. (Xamarin offers similar functionality.) And all it took was Microsoft’s willingness to offer a small company like Corona Labs the technical support — and, most likely, financial backing — necessary to make it happen.
[Image via ineonsigns.com]