Once enterprises decide on a mobile strategy, it's time to decide between native mobile application development and web application development. Native mobile applications have a lot to commend them. They are native and hence more in sync with specific features of iPhone / iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, etcetera – resulting in a smooth user experience.
The downside of this approach is the high cost of development and the time and effort spent on recreating a native app for multiple platforms. Moreover, even if you have the required budget and time, it's not possible to cover every mobile operating system in the market, what with emerging new platforms and the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend inundating corporate spaces.
The cost of native application development has led to the rise and growing popularity of MEAP tools or Mobile Enterprise Application Platforms. As the name suggests, MEAP is a platform for developers to develop code once and deploy it across multiple mobile operating systems and devices. It's economical and faster than native app development. You get features that enable you to build sophisticated apps that can match or nearly match native apps in look and feel. And you maximize your customer outreach.
Is MEAP good enough?
While MEAP offers many advantages over native mobile app development, it has some cons too. Firstly, it is an emerging technology. It is not equipped for all kinds of applications such as those with complicated scenarios involving video, audio, or intensive graphics, and highly sophisticated design. Secondly, MEAP comes with security issues that are addressed differently by various MEAP vendors.
To combat these concerns, many enterprises choose to develop one native application for the major mobile operating system or device used by their employees or customers and MEAP based applications for others. Again, your approach will largely depend on the kind of mobile application you target. Many businesses want purely informational apps or e-commerce portals. These can be easily created with MEAP at reasonable rates and timelines.
It is backed by industry biggies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
When is MEAP the right choice?
MEAP allows enterprises a lot of leeway in terms of development costs, time to market, innovation and flexibility. Once a mobile app is developed using MEAP, the development team can spend time on enhancing the application, upgrading it and introducing new features rather than recreating it for other platforms. Moreover, MEAP is simple enough for web developers to use. You do not need to hire expensive Java, Objective-C or Android programming experts.
MEAP supports device agnostic mobile app development. Enterprises do not need to worry about app compatibility with emerging mobile operating systems. Moreover, MEAP is easily integrable with existing enterprise systems such as legacy systems, data stores, CRM, etc., making it a perfect fit.
With increasing interest in MEAP, many small and large vendors have entered the market. Competition has brought down costs and forced vendors to offer more value with their product. Open source options are also available where customers can contribute to the development of secure enterprise or commercial mobile applications.
Not all rosy
MEAP tools, as yet, can not match native SDKs in all aspects. They also suffer from technology and vendor-specific issues. For example, MEAP solutions are tough to migrate. This can create vendor lock-in.
Though MEAP tools are far better now than before, there is a lot of ground to cover. Web applications created with HTML5 will always be compared with native peers – so choose the right approach judiciously.