Mobile apps: certification discussions
Raising the standard
Telcos and ISVs are formulating a set of industry-wide standards for mobile applications.
The certification of mobile applications could be enforced by different authorities during the next 12 months, according to Borland at a roundtable discussion at its BorCon developers' conference on Tuesday, 4 November.
These discussions are in response to an explosion in the pace of application development for mobile platforms that is expected to grow in time.
While certification and standards do exist - for Brew and Java 2 Micro Edition with the Mobile Device Information Profile (MIDP) - these do not cover all software or all hardware.
Combined with the exploding pace of development, this creates two major problems. From the carriers' perspective, applications must not crash the handset or spread a virus over the network. C++ is a particular issue because, unlike Java, code does not run in a protected sandbox.
ISVs, meanwhile, face a bewildering choice of mobile hardware platforms, operating systems, specifications and other architectures to write for. Portability is a major headache, as ISVs must potentially re-write their applications again and again.
Borland stands to gain from certification, as it offers developers a number of C++ and Java mobile tool kits.
Discussions around certification have been broad ranging, with vendors attempting to lock down a basis of what should be certified.
Jean-Peirre LeBlanc, vice president and general manager for Borland's mobile and C++ business unit, said talk has so far centered on the basics of what to certify - knowing who wrote an application, and how to install and un-install the software.
"The first thing the network operators want to know is who wrote the application," Mr LeBlanc said.
Brian Cooper, Evans Data Corp research director, said developers would welcome certification. "The market is so fragmented it's difficult to make one application universal across multiple devices," Mr Cooper said.
Developers today mostly target consumers, although the focus is expected to move into businesses as more enterprise applications are accessed through mobile devices. It would be sensible for ISVs and telecoms companies to agree on certified industry standards before business usage becomes wide-spread.