When Developers Can Build Once For All Devices, Users Win

Today, Alpha Software has released version 11 of its Alpha Five tool. It helps developers build Web applications to solve a business problem once and make the app available on major platforms. Using Microsoft .NET and HTML5, Alpha Five enables developers to avoid Flash, Silverlight and other plugins that limit the compatibility of apps with major devices like the iPad.

Applications built with tools like Alpha Five will work the same on all your devices. The forms, dialogs and security features, as well as the calendars, video players and image galleries, are backed on the server side. Users won’t have to worry about which device to use, and developers won’t have to reinvent the wheel for each one.

We’ve written recently about tools to help designers build responsive websites that work great on any screen. But all Web-powered applications are limited by cross-platform constraints, and tools like Alpha Five can relieve the burden on developers to have to solve complex problems over and over again just to reach users on their devices of choice.

Alpha Five provides developers with reusable components, from text forms to animations to location data mapping, that they can use without worrying about compatibility. The components are supported by its Codeless Ajax technology from the server side, providing a persistent connection so the user doesn’t even have to know about it.

Alpha Software’s goal is to reduce the burden on software development teams, so they no longer have to make difficult choices about which platforms to support.

“Mobile and tablet computing are great for users, but they’ve added cost, complexity, and uncertainty for companies,” says Richard Rabins, co-chairman of Alpha Software. “IT has been forced to choose between investing in apps for the desktop or laptop, the web, mobile, and new form factors such as tablets. Development teams are burning out.”

With a development tool like Alpha Five, companies can build once and deploy everywhere. Check out this demo of how the Alpha Five image gallery component works across platforms:

The Business of Platforms

Incompatibility across platforms is troubling for developers and users alike. Since the devices and operating systems we use are built by competing companies, it’s inevitable, though annoying, that they won’t always work together. But it’s too easy to assume that the reason major platforms are incompatible with each other is purely due to competition. Sometimes there are good reasons for platforms to drop support for proprietary technologies.

Why Doesn’t The iPad Have Flash, Anyway?

For example, Apple’s portable devices don’t support Adobe Flash, which powers lots of Web content and applications. That causes a headache for Flash developers and users who want to access Flash content. But Apple has made its reasons clear for not supporting Flash. It’s proprietary, whereas HTML5 – which Alpha Five uses – is standard. Plus, it performs slowly on mobile devices and drains the battery.

There are selfish reasons for Apple not to support Flash, too – supporting Flash games on the Web would compete with the App Store – but performance and battery life are important for all users, and Apple wants to protect that part of the experience.

For a mixture of good and selfish reasons, platforms are always going to push and pull on each other with the technologies they support. But projects like Alpha Five that can bridge platform divides using common technologies help keep developers sane and users happy.

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