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Q&A: A Mobile World



Vincent Ricciardi is the technical lead at Vokal Interactive, a mobile application development shop. He recently spoke with Dr. Dobb's editor-in-chief Jonathan Erickson.

Dr. Dobb's: Are all mobile apps the same?

Ricciardi: There are two types of mobile apps: "ground apps" and "cloud apps." Ground apps never communicate over the cell network to retrieve or manipulate data. Cloud apps, which we focus on, connect to remote sources of data for the content and configuration of the application. The development challenges of cloud apps relate to the density of the technology stack necessary to support them. Data sources hosted remotely require a host, server-side programming knowledge, relational database management system knowledge, Web-service development knowledge, and server administration knowledge. On top of this is the client-side component that has an application and database tier itself. Throw in a UI, and you have a 4-tier application.

Dr. Dobb's: Are tools emerging that make iPhone application development easier?

Ricciardi: Yes, Joe Hewitt's Three20 library (Facebook App) has been a great resource for the iPhone development community. The Three20 library is loaded with sample code and an API of resources that quickly equip an individual developer with powerful tools, UI and otherwise. The more open source code out there, the easier app development will get. Also, the vast network of forums and iPhone dev communities helps support a shared knowledge bank with regards to debugging and optimizing code.

Dr. Dobb's: Is cross-platform possible?

Ricciardi: Cross-platform competency, strategy, and development are vital to a successful mobile strategy. The iPhone is cool, but it doesn't have the lion's-share of the market just yet. Blackberry and the Android OS are big contenders in the market. Vokal has successfully launched cross-platform Apps for iPhone and BlackBerry and is looking forward to our first wave of Android Apps, so this is not just a notion I play with, it is an approach I advocate to each of our customers.

Dr. Dobb's: How has mobile changed IT?

Ricciardi: For one thing, mobile has introduced heightened security risks. From the company's standpoint, highly sensitive intellectual property is now floating around, constantly under the risk of being lost or stolen. From a productivity standpoint, at Vokal we have noticed that having an entire team deployed on a device like the iPhone allows us to stay in close communication no matter our location or time of day. This is but one example of how mobile has liberated and empowered today's workforce.


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