My company is looking to develop a mobile version of our core application. We want to build it off a platform the same way we do with our Software as a Service (SaaS) application, but we don't know what to use. Should we build our own mobile development platform or look into buying one?
This really becomes a question of cost-benefit analysis. Before I ever develop something myself, I always first look to see what else is out there. Not only does this help in determining if there is a solution directly for me, but it also helps to determine what other features I might need to implement if I decide to build it myself. Chances are, if you're working on your core application, nobody else is doing exactly what you are, and you'll end up building something yourself.
The biggest question to ask is what value you're providing to your clients. If your value is the technology, then you'll probably need to build out your own application, making sure that your unique and powerful features are emulated as closely as possible on your mobile application. However, if your value is instead on content, you might be better off looking at another platform, either outsourcing the mobile application entirely or buying something off the shelf and modifying it for your specific needs. Typically, if you're providing a SaaS application, you'll be able to adapt that API to be used on a mobile application as well.
Another solution often not thought of is to build your own mobile platform and buy or outsource one. In most cases, buying a platform will be relatively simple and quick to market for multiple target devices. This will help get your name out there, and then you can determine what devices have the most market share for your application. Once you know what platforms to target, you can begin working on your own, better version of the application specifically targeting those platforms.
One important thing to note is that many existing platforms use exclusively HTML5 technologies. While this is a great way to get a prototype application out to your target audience, unless you're doing some very basic work, it probably won't suit your clients.
This was first published in January 2013