The Challenges of Developing for Mobile

With the release of our mobile PDF SDK for iOS and Android later this year, I thought it might be a good time to talk about some of the issues that are specific to developing for mobile platforms. This task poses some special challenges. Ultimately, a lot of it boils down to hardware limitations.

I’ve heard it said that the processing power of today’s smartphones vastly outstrips that of the computers used to coordinate the first moon mission. Nevertheless, today’s software is a resource-hungry menagerie. In simple point of fact, sleek, portable devices lack the raw oomph of larger machines of the same vintage.

This difference in power is ultimately the reason there was a need to create mobile-specific platforms like iOS and Android. Performance is key, and with their more limited system resources, mobile devices are more vulnerable to performance dips when features aren’t implemented in the most lightweight way possible.

As mobile devices have grown in power and become an everyday part of our working lives, there has been an increasing need to facilitate productivity tasks on these portable machines. Still, the differences in form factor, power and operating systems mean that cross-platform compatibility needs to be a consideration from the get-go. This is especially true when working on a single code base that is going to support both desktop and mobile applications.

Since desktop infrastructures are both mature and have grown up with the idea of productivity in mind, there are measures in place that can basically be used as short-cuts. Being younger and necessarily leaner, equivalent structures don’t necessarily exist yet in mobile platforms. For example, GDI+ on Windows-based systems enables applications to use graphics, which supports certain specific features like EMF/WMF support. The absence of GDI+ makes it harder to offer this feature on non-Windows systems.

Relying as heavily as it does on hardware, software and network compatibility, successfully implementing printing support can be especially difficult on mobile. While Quartz can be used on iOS to render PDFs for viewing, the results might not be consistently great for many files. Of course, that is part of why there is room for PDF specialists like us to enter the frame.

As we continue to move forward with our mobile SDK, we look forward to continuing our open dialog with you, our developers. Specifically, we’ll want to get your early testing impressions from Debenu Labs, and of course any feature requests that might be incorporated into future builds.

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