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Mendix Aids in Cross-Platform Mobile App Dev

No programming skills? No problem - you can still build PhoneGap-based mobile apps. For developers, Mendix streamlines the process.

Mendix, which describes itself as an app Platform as a Service company, updated its cloud-based Mendix App Platform with one-click integration with PhoneGap for native packaging of hybrid cross-platform mobile apps suitable for app stores. The Mendix App Platform is a visual, model-driven, no-code platform for creating, testing and managing enterprise mobile or Web apps, designed for business users with limited or no programming skills as well as developers.

Among the triumvirate of app building approaches -- native, Web-based or hybrid -- Mendix features the latter, using HTML5, JavaScript and CSS Web technologies with a wrapper or container to make JavaScript API calls to access native device functions such as cameras, accelerometers and so forth.

"We believe that the future of enterprise mobile apps is hybrid," said company exec Johan den Haan in a blog post today.

This approach fosters faster multi-targeted app building, as developers can use one main code base for the iOS, Android and Windows Phone mobile OSes. It provides near-native performance and look-and-feel while producing packaged apps that can be used offline and meet the requirements of app stores, unlike pure Web-based apps.

"The rapid evolution of standards like HTML and the wide adoption of frameworks to bridge the native device functions provide an ever-richer user experience for cross-platform apps," den Haan said. "And from a logic perspective, JavaScript is powerful as a platform-independent, back-end technology, even in native clients. There's a shift going on from native languages towards JavaScript, where JavaScript gets more and more embedded in native programming languages to raise the level of re-usability of code across platforms."

PhoneGap is a free and open source framework from Adobe Systems Inc. based on theApache Cordova open source project under the Apache Software Foundation. With the new one-click integration with PhoneGap, developers can use the Adobe PhoneGap Build Service to package their projects for app stores, compiling the Web code in the cloud to produce binary apps in native file formats: IPA for iOS, APK for Android and XAP for Windows Phone.

Other new and enhanced features include simplified, responsive UIs made from predefined layouts for different devices, such as smartphones, tablets and desktops. This enables "functionally oriented developers to build responsive multi-channel apps without getting bogged down in device-specific UI adoptions," the company said in a statement.

The company is also providing in its Mendix App Store new widgets to access native device functions, such as contacts, camera, geolocation and bar code scanner for use even by staffers "with no technical knowledge." Developers with technical knowledge can fork, extend and enhance the widgets, available on the open source GitHub code repository.

For testing, another new feature is the Mendix Developer App, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store and Microsoft Windows Store. With it, developers can scan a QR code to pair their target devices with their development environments to test native device functionality.

The company said the new features are available to all Mendix customers automatically, although to use the new development features, users must download the company's new Business Modeler.

In addition to a free community edition, Mendix offers three other paid editions, with pricing starting at $1,650 per month for the basic package to produce a single enterprise app. Multi-app bundles start at $2,450 per month, while the enterprise version pricing is customized.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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