November 15, 2012, 10:40 AM — Brightcove's native plug-in architecture for its App Cloud and Application Craft's launch of Mobile Build are the latest examples of how cross-platform development tools for mobile apps are becoming increasingly cloud-centric.
Just like in many other areas of IT, moving to the cloud holds the promise of simplifying things like configuration, in this case for developers.
Application Craft offers a cloud-based development environment, and the new Mobile Build product allows users to convert HTML5-based apps so that they can run natively on iOS, Android and Windows Phone with a single click, the company said on Thursday.
That's an alternative to having to set up an environment on a PC, which is "horribly complex if you are a Web developer," Freddy May, founder and CEO at Application Craft, said.
Meanwhile, Brightcove's App Cloud, which is a year old this month, is also used by Web developers to create native applications for Android as well as iOS. It was designed to be very cloud-centric from day one. In addition to compiling applications in the cloud, it also offers cloud-based features such as content optimization, real-time analytics and push notifications.
On Thursday, Brightcove announced two enhancements to App Cloud.
"One is the introduction of a plug-in architecture ... and the other is a set of new push notification APIs, which add more ways to segment users to better target the messages you are sending," said Phil Costa, product director for App Cloud at Brightcove.
To integrate with smartphone features such as camera and GPS, App Cloud includes APIs that lets developers enhance their application. New APIs are added with every new release, but Brightcove runs into developers that want to use features the company doesn't offer an interface for, according to Costa.
This is where the new plug-in architecture comes in.
"It allows developers build that particular piece of functionality themselves, and add it to their application," said Costa.
As part of this push, Brightcove is also building some partner plug-ins that can be used as part of the architecture, including one for Google Analytics.
The market for cross-platform development tools for mobile applications is getting increasingly competitive. Both Brightcove and Application Craft are favorably comparing their new offerings to Adobe Systems' pioneering PhoneGap platform.
Up until now Application Craft integrated its development environment with PhoneGap Build, which also compiles cross-platform applications in the cloud, according to May. But because Adobe "has been horrendously slow" in supporting plug-ins on Build, Application Craft felt it had to develop its own solution, he said.
"Our users were crying out for PhoneGap plug-ins," said May.