Web Standards Evolution Drives Hybrid Apps: IDC Study

A recent IDC study shows enterprises tapping Web platform standards like HTML5 and modern languages to build hybrid applications for the enterprise.

hot tech skills

Progress in the Web platform standards such as HTML5 and in the latest versions of iOS and Android has made Web languages and tools more viable for a greater swath of enterprise apps, according to a recent IDC study.

In a report titled "The Evolving State of Mobile Software Development," IDC analyst Al Hilwa says Web platform technologies now occupy an "ever-larger footprint" inside of many third-party cross-platform mobile platforms.

Indeed, Hilwa points out that HTML5 is finally taking off as browser vendors support the standard more completely and as the industry, particularly advertisers, accelerates its shift from Adobe's Flash technology. "These moves will open pathways for more developers and designers to skill up on HTML5, thereby expanding available labor for Web platform enterprise software development," he said.

Moreover, new hybrid Web approaches that integrate around JavaScript with the use of compiled or native device objects have the potential to redefine the meaning of hybrid Web-style apps by adding native-like responsiveness and user interface (UI) quality, Hilwa added.

As a response to these changes, enterprises and enterprise IT providers are moving to adopt mobile and Web languages for new enterprise applications. For instance, IBM recently told eWEEK it is looking at three primary programming languages/development environments for enterprise use going forward: Java, Node.js and Swift.

Swift is a general-purpose programming language built using a modern approach to safety, performance and software design patterns, according to the Swift language Website. It is intended as a replacement for C-based languages including C, C++ and Objective-C. The language has been used to develop apps for the Apple platforms such as iOS, OS X and others—where Objective-C has long held sway.

Java is ubiquitous in the enterprise, and IBM has helped to evolve the language. IBM also has been active in the Node.js and JavaScript community, acquiring resources and talent—Node.js a server-side JavaScript development environment. And through its MobileFirst for iOS partnership with Apple, IBM has developed a keen interest in the Swift programming language that Apple recently open-sourced.

"At IBM we believe there are really three key languages that are going to be needed for the future around cloud and mobile: Java, Node.js/JavaScript and Swift," Phil Buckellew, vice president of Enterprise Mobile for the IBM Software Group, told eWEEK. "Those three areas are key. We know we need to be able to process transactional workloads, and that's where Java has a huge history and will remain and continue to be a great language for that purpose. Node.js has tremendous popularity today—JavaScript is the language of the Web. And Node has been a very popular way to build APIs for various Web back-ends. That's what IBM's acquisition of StrongLoop was all about. And we think Swift will appeal to companies that need workloads that are backing many of their mobile apps, and it has good properties as a systems language that we think many developers will want to use."

Swift recently surpassed Objective-C on the TIOBE Index of most popular programming languages. On the January 2016 TIOBE Index, Swift ranked 14th and Objective-C fell to No. 18 on the list. Swift was up 11 positions over where it stood on the list last January, when it was No. 25. And Objective-C was down 15 spots from where it was in January 2015, when it was No. 3 on the TIOBE index.

"We view Swift as the next great modern programming language because it represents the best of modern programming languages," said Dr. Angel Diaz, vice president of Cloud Architecture and Technology at IBM, in a blog post.

Meanwhile, IDC's Hilwa said mobile is challenging and even in many cases eclipsing the Web as a delivery channel for customer engagement and commerce. Mobile software development has become a key enabler to multichannel customer engagement in digital business transformation initiatives. This has led to an increase in mobile investment in the enterprise.

Moreover, enterprises are increasingly looking for unified mobile software development platforms to cover mobile, Web and desktop development, Hilwa said. "With the release of the mobile-focused Windows 10 as an upgrade path aimed at all Windows desktops, Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform app model will be an important target for enterprise software development along with Android and iOS," he said.