Device agnosticism of Mobile Applications: Irrelevant and Essential

Device agnosticism is the capacity of a computing component to work with various systems without requiring any special adaptations. The term can apply to either hardware or software. In an information technology (IT) context, agnosticism refers to anything that is designed to be compatible across most common systems.

Typically, but not exclusively, a device-agnostic peripheral device operates with common computing platforms connecting wirelessly.

When I look back three to four years ago, the mobile market was a fragmented wilderness of cellular service providers and multi-function cellular devices. There were a few maturing mobile operating systems which information technology managers considered supporting. There was Windows Mobile found in many industries, anticipated the arrival of Windows Phone 7, the business world had loyal Blackberry followers, Apple was making serious headway into enterprise solutions with iOS, Google’s Android OS enters the consumer market with very promising reviews, and Palm webOS was created, known today as HP webOS.

With numerous mobile operating systems and devices to choose from, the term device agnostic became very popular. Companies looked for ways to build a long term plans that were agile enough to handle the various fluctuations that mobile technology was susceptible to. Some of the kinds of fluctuations companies were concerned about manufacturer warranties, software upgrades and support, and device upgrades and support. Software companies addressed these concerns and began using different product development methods. The changes in methods, such as using agile methods verses waterfall methods in the development of software, lead companies to become device agnostic. Many software companies had moved away from the practice of developing their mobile device applications multiple times to using cross platform technologies. HTML5* is the standard for HTML in becoming a true cross platform technology. One of HTML5’s rules state that “it should be device independent”.

Today, the fragmentation in the mobile market has ended. Palm and webOS are gone, Windows Mobile became a nice-to-have technology, BlackBerry was not evolve from email to business multitasking solution, and Windows Phone 7 has not gained much mobile market demand. Only Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have been successfully positioned in the current mobile market.

Thus, the term “device agnostic” in the traditional mobile meaning, is slowly becoming irrelevant. Especially because it has become more and more essential. New trends are reshaping our perception of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ in the mobile market. The term device agnostic will transition from an ideal to a requirement.

Eventually the terms mobile technology and mobile software will become irrelevant. In the near future, technology will be need to be portable, touch-friendly, mobile-friendly and eventually transparent, as implied by the concept of transparent computing**. Information technology managers and departments will have to adopt true device agnostic software. Software or versions of it will be required to run on all types of smartphones, touch pads and tablets. Eventually, any software will be required to run in any environment, anytime, anywhere, independent of form factors and screen sizes.

It is very exciting times to we live in, especially when I expect free Wi-Fi to be available when I sit down to have my morning coffee, so I can check my emails and view video clips on news reports around the world, accessed through either my tablet or smartphone. If I am lucky, I may find a coupon for a free cup of coffee from my favorite social media site.

*HTML5 is a cooperation between the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).

**Transparent computing is a characteristic of pervasive computing , the possible future state in which we will be surrounded by computers everywhere in the environment that respond to our needs without our conscious use. In this context, transparent means invisible. A long sought goal of computer science, transparent computing would involve systems so subtle and responsive that they could, for example, solve various user problems without any knowledge on the part of the user of what was taking place. As a simple example, an invisible computer could respond to a glance at a particular Web site URL by calling up similar Web sites and listing them unobtrusively nearby.

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I am a technologist with a strong background in software engineering. I have many interests. My current distractions are 70s-80s-90s music [it's a very eclectic collection], ontology, information architecture, mobile device technology, medical bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and nanorobotics.

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