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Study: 85 Percent of Windows Developers Are Asked to Go Mobile

Although there's a strong move in the direction of mobile, almost no one is giving up traditional desktop development.

Windows developers are under increasing pressure to port existing desktop apps to mobile platforms, but that doesn't mean desktop app development is dying, according to a new survey.

The survey, by Embarcadero, paints a complex picture of the emerging mobile development landscape for traditional Windows-focused developers. It found, among other things, that 85 percent of Windows developers have been asked to deliver apps on mobile devices, and that users expect to have the same experience on a mobile device that they do on their desktops, often with no compromise in performance or functionality.

The survey of 1,337 developers was done in August. It showed that 65 percent of users or business stakeholders have requested that existing applications be delivered on mobile devices, and 58 percent want brand-new apps for mobile. Those users can be demanding: 54 percent say that users expect the complexity of a desktop app to be replicated on a mobile device, but with the simplicity of UI and ease-of-use typically found in mobile apps.

The hunger for mobile apps, however, doesn't mean that businesses are giving up on traditional apps. A near unanimity of survey respondents -- 95 percent -- said that they'll still need to develop and support existing apps. Just 1 percent said that mobile apps will replace Windows desktop apps completely, and that they'll stop developing for the desktop.

In terms of the mobile platforms being targeted, Android and iOS are the clear leaders. Eighty-three percent of users want apps on Android, and 67 percent are asking for iOS support. In what should be encouraging news for Microsoft, users also want ports to Windows mobile devices: 33 percent for Windows Phone and 17 percent for Windows RT.

Developers are concerned about their ability to deliver on these requests, however. The survey found worries that new development skills are required (57 percent), that testing complexity increases with multiple platforms (56 percent), and that it's expensive to develop for multiple platforms (54 percent). They also cite a relative lack of tools available to develop in mobile environments when compared with existing desktop tools (45 percent).

There's also the question of mobile performance. A strong majority, 85 percent, of developers believe natively-compiled apps give a better user experience than scripted/interpreted languages, but just 17 percent are confident they can deliver native apps for two or more mobile platforms. The fewer the platforms, of course, the greater the confidence; for instance, 34 percent say they can do it for one platform, like Android or iOS. Twenty-two percent say they can't build native apps at all with current technology.

Another problem faced by Windows developers specifically is their relative lack of knowledge of, and experience with, non-Microsoft technologies. Although JavaScript/HTML5 familiarity is relatively high (55 percent consider themselves "experts" or "knowledgeable"), just 22 say the same about Objective C, the language of iOS, and 38 are comfortable with Java, used for Android.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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