Microsoft have been slow in coming to the mobile party. But finally it would seem they have arrived. We have seen a steady growth in requests for mobile GIS apps which run on the Windows mobile platform. This is part of the seamless in office out of office experience promoted by Microsoft. So use your PC, and installed software, any time and in any place. New Windows computers now on sale are both laptops and tablets; detachable from their keyboard. That means the use of Microsoft Office and all other Windows based software on your tablet.
We at WebMapSolutions have been gearing up for the increased popularity of Windows on mobiles. Mobile development currently centres on the platform: iOS, Android or both. If a native app is required (or one which can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play) the mobile app needs to be written in the programming language for that platform. So Objective-C for iOS, Java for Android. If a client wants a mobile app to run on both platforms that means two code bases, or essentially two separate applications which are identical. See Collector for ArcGIS as an example. There are two teams at Esri building the mobile app for iOS and Android respectively. What a pain. That is double the time, and cost to build and maintain. Throw Windows into the mix, and things just get more complex.
Microsoft Tablets for GIS
Our approach to get past this complexity and cost is to build mobile GIS Web applications, which can be transformed into native; actually called hybrid. Phonegap is one technology we like, to do this transformation. There has been much discussed about this approach, pros and cons. But we have found it an excellent solution to get past this multiple code base problem. As an example, we’ve been developing a framework which allows us to generate custom mobile apps which provide the functionality of Collector for ArcGIS. By custom we mean styling, branding and specific functionality not provided by Collector such as custom forms. By taking the hybrid approach we can generate mobile GIS from one code base, which run on all popular mobile platforms, including Windows. You need a Windows based version of Collector, we have it!
Now native mobile development will always be with us. Some things are just better done, or only possible, taking a native approach. We build native apps when and where needed. But the bulk of mobile GIS apps can be built taking a hybrid approach. We’ve found great success taking this path with many of our clients. Contact us to find out more.