Native apps in their infancy

In the face of the popular, simplified, ideas about HTML5 as the saviour of mobile development, it is begininning to feel hard to defend the definitely old-school-style of native development for iOS and Android.

The steps in development seem not to have really progressed that much since the dawn of time ; Want a User Interface ? Code, comment, compile, link, test, check-in … same as its ever been. Eclipse and other IDE’s are great tools, no doubt, but they are still hard-core programmer tools, requiring complex setup and requiring deep understanding of the tool itself to make them really hum. Xcode meanwhile faces few of the issues that Eclipse does, but the creation of a UI for an app, and the tying of that UI to the code is no less complex.

Where are the tools that allow the really easy visual design of native User Interfaces with integration to visual design tools ? Why is it so complex to just get started – particularly with iOS developer certificates, provisioning profiles and the rest – and why is the process of pushing an app out to through the app stores a pain ?

My hypothesis is that the processes and tools are at the end of their very first iteration (or errortation as a colleague used to say), however I’m worried that a closed shop such as Apple will be slow to see or address the shortcomings of their toolset while they are reaping the rewards from the iTunes store. There might be a high technical hurdle to iOS coding, but it is still resulting in many thousands of apps being created on a daily basis.

I don’t have a specific view on what the next iteration of tools might bring, but frameworks with a generative nature like rails, and languages/environments like Scratch hint at a different way of doing things. Nothing particularly new about either of these, but I would like to see more smart tools that take away the drudgery and bring a new accessibility that means the number of apps will multiply exponentially from where it is now. Tools that will support the coming boom in DIY devices and 3D models from maker-land.


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