Device agnosticism: So far good in theory, not in practice


Ask an agency CIO about his mobility strategy and he will likely say their strategy includes being "device agnostic."

It's an admirable goal for several reasons. It doesn't favor a single technology, it doesn't pigeonhole the agency should developers' interest whither, and it moves the agency toward the lofty (and oh-so fashionable) goal of "bring your own device," or BYOD.

But at what point is the desire for device agnosticism hampering agency progress on mobile?

True device agnosticism would also mean all services are available on all devices. It's an exhausting prospect that requires an agency to leverage different development technologies, environments, scripting languages and software development kits in order to make agency apps work on a wide variety of employee operating systems. (How many agencies claiming device agnosticism are actually using this resource-draining practice, is another question altogether.)

When it comes to security testing on multiple devices, the process is equally laborious. An employee at a large agency CIO shop recently told me he wished the agency would just commit fully to Apple's iOS platform, because Android's various operating system versions are extremely difficult to wrangle. Apparently, he's not alone in that sentiment.

According to IDC and Appcelerator's quarterly mobile development report, Apple is gaining strength in the enterprise and developer interest in Android is eroding. Fifty-three percent of enterprise app developers now prefer iOS while 36 percent prefer Android, finds the report.

It's understandable that agencies don't like to take sides or claim allegiance to any vendor. HTML5's develop once, use many approach could relieve some headaches when accessing web-based apps from a mobile device.

But when native mobile apps are the norm, agencies could likely accelerate and focus their efforts by picking a single device and a single platform, rather than trying to please everyone all the time. - Molly

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