Assess and select mobile app development platforms
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Nowadays, there are so many mobile app development platform vendors that IT decision-makers have a difficult time narrowing down their options. Read about these 12 prominent MADPs on the market, focusing on what they offer and what sets them apart in order to figure out the top mobile app development platforms for your organization.
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Adobe Experience Manager Mobile
Adobe Experience Manager is an enterprise content management system that includes AEM Mobile, a cloud service for building and managing mobile apps. AEM Mobile users can create apps that incorporate customer and product information and integrate with third-party business systems.
AEM Mobile provides a centralized web interface for building, publishing and managing mobile apps. Users can also access built-in analytics that measure app performance and end-user response.
AEM Mobile appears to target enterprise customers who are already using other Adobe technologies and are willing to run their mobile apps in Adobe Experience Cloud. Customers can sign up for the service directly from Adobe or through one of its partners.
Although AEM Mobile is available as a cloud subscription service, Adobe provides no details on cost or service levels. For that, an organization must contact a sales rep or request a demo.
Axway Appcelerator provides tools for developing, testing, managing and monitoring mobile apps. The platform appeals to organizations of all sizes, in part due to its flexible deployment options, such as public clouds, virtual private clouds and on-premises environments.
Appcelerator includes a purpose-built framework for back-end services and API management and a centralized dashboard for managing and monitoring apps. The platform also includes Appcelerator Studio for building, testing and publishing apps and the App Designer plug-in, which users can install in Appcelerator Studio to support drag-and-drop development. In addition, Appcelerator provides Hyperloop for facilitating iOS and Android API integration and the Titanium software development kit (SDK) for building native and hybrid mobile apps.
Axway offers three Appcelerator editions:
- The Indie Seat edition is free and provides basic services. This is a good edition for developers and other users to try out the platform.
- The next level is the Pro Seat edition, which runs $99/month per seat and offers additional technologies, such as App Designer and user analytics.
- The top-level plan is Enterprise Seat, which provides even more features, such as crash detection and performance analytics. Organizations need to contact Axway for prices on the Enterprise edition.
Kony AppPlatform provides an enterprise-grade environment for designing, building and deploying mobile apps, with a focus on rapid, low-code development that appeals to small businesses and enterprises alike. The platform can be deployed on premises or to private or public cloud services.
AppPlatform includes two main components: Kony Visualizer and Kony Fabric. Visualizer is a free front-end integrated development environment (IDE) for developing and deploying mobile apps.
Kony Fabric is a mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) that facilitates app deployment and management. The platform provides services such as identity management, integration, orchestration and engagement, all of which are accessible through a centralized console.
The Mendix platform offers a collaborative environment that supports the entire application lifecycle. The platform is based on the open source Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service standard. Customers can deploy the platform to the Mendix cloud, private clouds or on-premises data centers, as well as to hybrid or multicloud environments, making it a fitting choice for an organization of any size looking for flexible development and deployment options.
The Mendix platform includes two development tools: Web Modeler and Desktop Modeler. Web Modeler provides nondevelopers with a web-based interface that supports model-driven, drag-and-drop development. Desktop Modeler is a downloadable desktop application that includes templates, widgets and other components, along with features for source code editing. All components, with the exception of Desktop Modeler, are built on cloud technologies.
Mendix offers four editions of its platform:
- The Community edition is free and provides organization with a way to try out the platform.
- The Single App edition starts at $1,875 per month.
- The Pro edition starts at $5,375 per month.
- The Enterprise edition starts at $7,825 per month.
Plans vary with regard to the number of apps customers can build, available deployment options, provided support, scaling and other features.
Microsoft Visual Studio Mobile Center
Late to the MADP market, Microsoft is trying to play catch-up with its recent introduction of Visual Studio Mobile Center, a cloud-based service that pulls together mobile lifecycle services. Although still in preview, the service supports building, testing, distributing and monitoring mobile apps. The service is currently free, although with limited support. Licensing and pricing details are not yet available.
With the power of the Azure cloud to back up its MADP services, Microsoft appears committed to making Mobile Center a complete platform that pulls together various pieces, with more promised in the near future. Currently, users can generate installable app packages, run tests against over 400 unique device configurations, collect crash reports, gather analytical data and send push notifications.
A critical component of Microsoft's MADP vision is the Xamarin add-in for Visual Studio. Xamarin is a free, downloadable plug-in that enables mobile app development. Developers can work from a single, shared code base to build apps that target multiple mobile platforms. The Visual Studio Community edition is free, as is the Xamarin Studio IDE for Mac.
Oracle Mobile Cloud Service
Oracle's Mobile Cloud Service is another relatively new player in the MADP market. The cloud-based MADP utilizes Oracle Cloud technologies to support the complete mobile app lifecycle. Users can build, manage, distribute and monitor apps, as well as configure connectors to on-premises and cloud-based enterprise services. Mobile Cloud Service provides a centralized portal for carrying out lifecycle management tasks, as well as managing security and APIs.
Oracle offers multiple development options for working with Mobile Cloud Service. Nondevelopers can use Mobile Application Accelerator to quickly build and deploy apps, and full-fledged developers can use Mobile Application Framework, along with the Oracle JDeveloper IDE or Oracle Enterprise Pack for Eclipse, to build cross-platform apps.
Oracle offers a wide range of service plans, but the differences can be somewhat confusing:
- The nonmetered plans, which are based on prepaid, set amounts, start at $65 for 10,000 API calls per month.
- The metered plans, which are based on actual usage, start at $130 for 10,000 API calls per month.
- Plans related to its E-Business Suite and JD Edwards products
- A 30-day free trial
OutSystems Platform provides a set of high-productivity development and delivery tools that support several deployment options. Customers can install the platform on private clouds, whether in their own data centers or with third-party vendors, or deploy to public cloud services, such as Azure, VMware or Rackspace.
OutSystems Platform consists of two primary components: Service Studio and Platform Server. Service Studio, a desktop application for developing apps, takes a visual approach to development, providing drag-and-drop functionality for building business processes, data models and interface components. Service Studio also lets developers customize the underlying code. Platform Server provides the platform's back-end services, as well as technologies for integrating with third-party systems. Together, these two components support the entire app lifecycle.
OutSystems offers three platform editions, which buyers can acquire directly from OutSystems or from one of its partners:
- a free edition that lets users set up a personal environment;
- the One edition, which starts at $2,100 per month;
- the top-level edition, Enterprise, which runs $4,600 per month; and
- A 30-day free trial of the Enterprise edition.
OutSystems provides direct support to all customers with valid and active subscriptions.
Pegasystems Pega Mobility
Pegasystems offers the Pega 7 platform for building complex enterprise applications. One component of the platform is Pega Mobility, an umbrella term for products and services within the Pega 7 platform that enable enterprises to build and deploy mobile apps. Pega Mobility takes a business process approach to app building. Enterprises can access any business process from any mobile app, publish any business process as a standalone mobile app, embed any business process in an existing mobile app or build a new business process and mobile app.
The Pega 7 platform supports several deployment options. Customers can deploy to Pega Cloud or to their own managed cloud environments -- either a private cloud or to a hosting service, such as Azure, Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud Platform. Customers can also deploy to a partner-managed cloud that delivers the Pega platform as a customer hosting tool or purpose-built application service.
Pega Mobility also offers Pega Express for no-code app building and Pega Designer Studio for model-driven and hands-on development. Pega Mobility also provides Pega Mobile Manager for centrally managing and monitoring the mobile ecosystem, including apps, data, devices and users.
Pegasystems offers both a Personal and Enterprise edition. For information about licensing and pricing, organizations must contact an account rep, either through Pegasystems or one of its partners. In addition, Pegasystems offers Global Customer Support to customers with authorized accounts. Pegasystems also offers a 30-day free trial.
Progress Telerik Platform
Progress Telerik Platform is a modular mobile application environment based on integrated cloud technologies. The platform offers tools and services for the entire application lifecycle and can be deployed to the Progress cloud, private clouds or on-premises environments, making it one of the best mobile app development platform vendors for organizations of all sizes.
Progress offers a wide range of components to support mobile apps, but it can be confusing to understand what constitutes the Telerik Platform and what does not. Progress refers to the platform as only a mobile MBaaS -- although it provides all the tools necessary to design, build, connect, test, deploy, manage and monitor mobile apps.
One of these tools is AppBuilder, a cloud-based development environment integrated with Telerik Platform. Progress also provides SDKs that developers can use with their own tools to build apps that consume Telerik Platform services. Another piece of the Progress puzzle is Kendo UI, an interface development framework for jQuery and Angular. Plus, Progress offers Kinvey, a recently acquired BaaS that provides additional mobile services -- although Progress still seems to be working out how Kinvey will fit into the larger Telerik picture.
Telerik Platform comes in three editions:
- The Developer edition ($39/month/user) is the most basic.
- The Business edition ($149/month/user) offers additional features, such as public app stores, Telerik AppManager, UI components and third-party connectors.
- The Enterprise edition adds even more features, such as Screen Builder Enterprise, Codeless Enterprise Data Binding, AppManager LiveSync integration and premium plug-ins. It's available with premium support. Organizations must contact a sales rep directly for pricing.
- A 30-day free trial
Customers can purchase Telerik Platform directly through Telerik or through its partners. Each edition comes with support services, although the level of support depends on the edition.
Red Hat Mobile Application Platform
Red Hat's Mobile Application Platform provides a complete environment for building, integrating and deploying mobile apps. The platform supports collaborative development, while providing the mechanisms necessary to control security and policy management. The platform also offers reusable connectors for interfacing with such systems as Salesforce and SAP.
Mobile Application Platform, which is based on multi-tenant cloud technologies, can be divided into two main categories: Core and MBaaS. Core contains the components necessary for developing and managing the apps. MBaaS includes the back-end services for supporting and integrating the apps. Organizations can deploy both the Core and MBaaS components to their own infrastructures, or they can deploy the MBaaS components to their own infrastructures and the Core components to Red Hat's platform.
Mobile Application Platform also offers Forms Builder for rapid mobile app development, in addition to SDKs that let developers work in their own environments. Plus, the platform includes Build Farm for automating the build process and provides tools for implementing continuous delivery, push notifications and analytics.
Red Hat does not publish the platform's plan or pricing structures, nor is it clear whether Red Hat will provide a free trial. Organizations must contact Red Hat directly for details or to request a 20-minute live demo. Red Hat appears to offer two levels of support: Standard and Premium. Premium support provides faster responses and is available 24/7.
Salesforce App Cloud Mobile
Salesforce App Cloud Mobile provides a combination of metadata and code-driven tools for building mobile apps on Salesforce Platform. As part of that platform, App Cloud Mobile is backed by a wide range of technologies that provide organizations with a flexible environment for creating and deploying their mobile apps.
Salesforce also provides Mobile Services for identity management, social integration, offline syncing and push notifications. Nondevelopers can use Salesforce1 for simple point-and-click development. More advanced developers can turn to the Lightning web development platform or Salesforce Mobile SDK. Customers can also use the website to build apps that extend their customer relationship management systems -- without writing any code -- or use Heroku to build custom apps in any language or framework.
App Cloud Mobile is available through one of four Salesforce Platform subscription plans:
- Employee Apps Starter ($25/month/user);
- Employee Apps Plus ($100/month/user);
- Heroku Enterprise Starter ($4,000/month companywide); and
- Platform Unlimited (organizations must contact a sales rep for pricing).
Salesforce offers a 30-day free trial on its Employee Apps Starter and Employee Apps Plus plans. To try out the other plans, organizations must contact Salesforce directly. Salesforce also offers several levels of support that range from basic to highly personalized services.
SAP Cloud Platform Mobile Services
Mobile Services, part of the SAP Cloud Platform, provides organizations an environment for creating and managing mobile apps. The service offers a wide range of capabilities, such as offline syncing, remote logging, automatic app updates, push notifications and multiple authentication methods.
SAP also provides mobile service for SAP Fiori, optimizing it for mobile performance. Fiori includes end-to-end tools for packaging, connecting, securing, testing, distributing and monitoring customized Fiori apps. Plus, SAP offers SAP Hybrid Application Toolkit, a web-based development environment that extends SAP Web IDE for mobile app development. In addition, SAP provides the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS, which facilitates iOS-based development.
Because Mobile Services is part of SAP Cloud Platform, customers must sign up for the platform to get Mobile Services. SAP offers a variety of subscription plans for SAP Cloud Platform, which are divided into four packages: For Developers, For Medium Business, For Enterprise and Infrastructure and Database Packages.
Each package includes three plans. The Get Started and Medium Business packages provide free editions. Beyond that, the pricing structures vary significantly. Organizations should thoroughly research plan types to understand subscription fees and estimated costs. SAP offers several different levels of support for SAP Cloud Platform: Preferred Success, Preferred Care and Enterprise Support, cloud editions.
Using extensive research into MADP, TechTarget editors focused on vendors that develop native apps, provide a single integrated development environment and connect all major back-end data systems. Vendors should also provide full-featured apps, in-house development and be scalable with transparent pricing models. Our research included Gartner, Forrester and TechTarget surveys.
Comparing prospective mobile app dev platform options
How to choose a mobile app dev platform that's right for you
The use case scenarios for a MADP