Apple, Google, RIM, and other mobile platform vendors each provide tools to develop applications. However, in order to address the widest possible audience in a fragmented device/OS market, it is necessary to build applications that run cross-platform. Thus mobile development platforms primarily exist to support multiple deployment targets (iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, RIM, Symbian, Palm, etc.) Platform vendors will often have specialized knowledge or even pre-built widgets for certain types of applications (industry or function), but for vendors that lack domain expertise, customers need to clearly define their business requirements.
Mobile development platforms generate code or pull from a framework of code to achieve operability on various device types. Alternatively, development platforms can leverage proprietary technology which can be more efficient, increase time to market, and improve adaptability. This is most common in platforms geared toward non-technical administrators which enable the creation of applications in a visual environment. However, unless the platform is open-sourced, the pace of innovation is limited to that of the vendor as they maintain ownership of the source code.
Fragmentation is a good driver for Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) vendors, but their core value exists well beneath the application interface. MEAP solutions typically cater to large enterprises and consist of server components, middleware, and application configuration tooling. Secure, bidirectional connectivity to various enterprise systems is fundamental in order for mobile users to impact the supply chain. The web-services or application programming interfaces (API) needed to facilitate systems integration are typically built out by internal IT resources, outsourced, or provided by software vendors. MEAP technology is primarily used in the deployment of employee-facing applications (B2E), but some MEAP solutions can be leveraged to build consumer-facing applications (B2C) especially those requiring authentication and advanced enterprise data connectivity.
[NOTE: Mobile web development is a cost effective alternative to hard coding native applications as a website can be built once and optimized for compatibility with various mobile browsers. However, there is still a wide performance, functionality, and discoverability gap between web and native applications, making it necessary to develop native applications in many cases. Hybrid applications that contain both web and native components can lower the costs of building completely native applications while maintaining offline capabilities and the ability to publish it to the app marketplaces.]