Cross-Platform Mobile Dev Platform Icenium Goes Commercial, Gets Cloud Backend

Developer tools and solutions provider Telerik last week released the first commercial version of Icenium, a mobile development solution the company has been road testing for the past six months.

Icenium is a software bundle for developing and managing cross-platform mobile iOS and Android applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It comes with a Windows-based integrated development environment (IDE) called Graphite, a browser based IDE called Mist, support for the company's own Kendo UI and the Apache Cordova frameworks, and a set of backend services called Everlive.

With Icenium, the company is confronting what Todd Anglin, executive vice president of Telerik's Cross Platform Tools group, calls "the most disruptive force in software development" -- mobility.

"I think most people would agree with that statement, generally," Anglin told ADTmag, "but what specifically is so disruptive? It's the fact that mobile requires developers to build software for multiple platforms. It has radically reset the idea of what it means to write software, even for experienced veterans." 

The hybrid application model, which takes the "run everywhereness" of HTML5 and marries it to some native enrichment, has emerged as a popular mobile development strategy, Anglin observed. But he argues that the hybrid approach isn't really a solution to the core problem.

"It gets developers part of the way there," Anglin said. "Hybrid development still requires them to write and configure multiple applications and packages for Android, iOS, etc. It still requires them to figure out separate development tool chains -- Xcode for iOS and Eclipse or whatever for Android. And there's still a lot of manual SDK management, even though the hybrid runtime itself is going to help you get onto multiple platforms more easily."

Icenium, he said, "completes the hybrid vision" by taking away the pain associated with managing software and pushing it into the cloud. The result is essentially a development platform for building hybrid app UIs with supporting cloud-based backend service.

The latest version of Icenium comes with several new features, including a preview of a set of project templates called Everlive, which automatically provision the cloud backend service. These services provide the application with data and files storage, user management, cloud code execution, and email notifications. It's a capability that some are calling Mobile Backend as a Service.

"It's all that stuff that doesn't add any value to the mobile app, and for many developers getting into mobile development, represent a significant learning curve," Anglin said.

The backend services are running on a mixture of Node.js and MongoDB, and the Icenium infrastructure leverages a partnership with cloud hoster Rackspace.

This release also comes with a data navigator, which allows developers to "explore the structure of backend projects" (navigate to types, fields, permissions); cloud code, which execute business logic and validations without replication on the client; user management features for making apps social; and the Kendo UI DataViz, which provides a dedicated suite of HTML5-powered data visualization widgets, including animated charts.

Icenium is Telerik's first foray into Software-as-a-Service. The company is probably best-known for its HTML/JavaScript framework, Kendo UI. The two-year-old framework is built on top of the jQuery cross-browser JavaScript library and designed to leverage the CSS3, HTML5, and JavaScript web standards. It supports all major browsers, including Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and the mobile browsers on iOS and Android.

The company is still providing a 30-day free trial of Icenium, which can be downloaded from the company Web site. Ongoing access and support requires a subscription.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].