The growing trend towards Frictionless Enterprise — using digital connection to work from anywhere with access to the latest data and on-demand resources — is fueling demand for new mobile apps that connect into back-end systems. But few organizations have the developer skills to build a new portfolio of mobile apps from scratch. A new partnership between Ionic and Neptune Software aims to break this logjam. We spoke to Ionic CEO Max Lynch yesterday to find out more.
To us, mobile is not so much a completely separate platform, but really an additional way that their customers, their employees, etc, are consuming software. And so the idea of being able to use web technology and web developers to target all those different devices and form factors is really compelling for these big companies.
Cross-platform mobile and web apps
The new partnership will see Neptune Software adopt Capacitor, the underlying technology that powers the cross-platform capabilities of Ionic, and which has been designed to supersede the older Cordova framework. Like Ionic, the Neptune enterprise app development platform focuses on the use of web technologies to deliver hybrid web applications and Progressive Web Applications (PWA).
Adopting Capacitor will ensure that the various capabilities of each mobile platform, from UI components to biometric authentication, will be available to developers as they build their apps within the Neptune platform. Going cross-platform doesn't mean compromising on access to the capabilities of each mobile platform, as Lynch explains:
Picking our stack is not like a concession you're making. You're not sacrificing native functionality, because Capacitor has a bunch of tools for you to access that if your app needs it — and plugins that we've created and the community have created — so you can drop in that native functionality.
Partnering with Neptune extends Ionic's reach into back-end data and services, taking advantage of Neptune's API-centric platform. Lynch explains:
We don't really dictate the backend side, we're more focused on the mobile side. That's why we're working with someone like Neptune, where they already have an opinionated back-end and integrations there. It makes a lot of sense for us, because we handle the difficult mobile side — the native integrations, the native functionality, the UI, the user experience, make sure it's really high quality — and then they can tie that together with their opinionated back end.
Also attractive is Neptune's low-code approach, which enterprise application specialists can use to create web and mobile apps without needing detailed knowledge of those development environments. This means that, whereas Ionic is focused on software engineering teams, the Neptune platform can be used by more business-focused developers. At the same time, ita open-source credentials means that it doesn't have the same constraints as more proprietary low-code platforms. Lynch elaborates:
What we're going to do with Neptune is a better middle ground, where it's built on a foundation that has broad open-source developer support. I think that's really important, because let's say the scale of that app becomes much bigger, and they decide they need to add custom functionality that's not in the tool, they're not going to get stuck. I think the Neptune team can help those customers really build whatever they want by dropping down to code, and they never hit a wall. That's really important to us.
The impetus for the partnership has come as a result of reduced support for Cordova, which lost a major backer when Adobe last year announced that it was discontinuing its Phonegap toolkit. This in turn led to the downgrading of other Cordova-based toolkits in the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms [MXDP], says Lynch. Neptune Software will continue to support Cordova, but is also now supporting Capacitor, which the Ionic team introduced in 2018 as a more modern alternative. Lynch says:
What we have with Neptune ... is a path forward for these companies to keep all the product experiences that their customers expect, which is a cross-platform app running on web, desktop and mobile — without having to target mobile on its own, which would kill the whole point of being cross-platform. Capacitor is a path forward for these companies.
Mobile app development is an imperative for enterprises today, but a lack of the necessary developer skills and resources is creating huge bottlenecks in delivery. This partnership provides an alternative route that can bypass the congestion and get apps out in the field where they're desperately needed.