Apache Cordova, the open source hybrid app development environment, has released a new version (3.3.0 for those tracking it). This release fixes a lot of bugs for Android, Windows and Blackberry devices. More importantly, it also now supports Ubuntu Touch and Amazon's Fire mobile operating systems. My colleague Tony in this post had talked about rise of Ubuntu and other platforms, and why we need to pay attention to them.
Apache Cordova is very popular not just amongst developers but also amongst other enterprise mobile technology vendors. The big vendors like IBM (Worklight), Oracle (ADF Mobile), Adobe (PhoneGap), and several others use Cordova as the basis of their own tools. These vendors bundle their own value adds on top of Cordova and extend its capabilities for their customers.
However, there's a key shortcoming that you need to be aware of if you were considering one of those tools that OEM Cordova. These tools don't use the latest version of Cordova; in fact some of them actually use a very old version of Cordova. This has two implications:
- You won't get latest features (such as support for Ubuntu Touch in this case)
- Upgrades could be painful, since those vendors have created their own extensions
Now, some of this lag is only natural. When a manufacturer releases a new mobile device, upgrades an operating system, or releases a new SDK, Cordova implements it and then commercial toolmakers implement it even later. There's a lot of testing that goes in between to make sure everything works.
However, from your point of view, this lag should become one of your evaluation criteria when evaluating these tools. Find out how long does it take for a vendor to implement support for new features released by device manufacturers. Of course they'll detail the difficulties predicting lags against future changes, but you can look at past history; unlike financial markets, past performance here can actually be an indication of future performance.
And finally, the emergence of new mobile operating systems such as Ubuntu elevate the importance of cross-platform development tools. We evaluate more than 20 such tools in our Enterprise Mobile Technology Research.