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Analyst: React Native Ready for Enterprise Late This Year

React Native, a new approach to creating mobile apps unveiled by Facebook early last year, is an important development that's still maturing and unlikely to be suitable for enterprise adoption until late this year, IDC analyst Al Hilwa said in recent research report.

The newly open sourced React Native builds upon Facebook's JavaScript-based approach for Web development, ReactJS, retargeted to native iOS and Android app creation with new techniques that thwart many traditional conventions. One key tenet of the approach is to stop trying for native-equivalent cross-platform apps that can run on multiple OSes from one codebase. Instead of that "write once, run anywhere" approach, Facebook espouses a "learn one, write anywhere" philosophy in which teams use the same libraries, tooling and techniques to write different apps that attain true native functionality, feel and performance. This avoids the time and cost of developing separate native projects with completely different languages and tools.

With its own JSX JavaScript syntax extension, component-based coding and a new approach to UI rendering, Reach Native has been enthusiastically received by many developers as a game-changing tool in hybrid mobile development, letting Web-trained coders easily transition to native mobile, something that Hilwa acknowledged.

"This blend of capabilities in React Native appears to have hit a home run with app developers as it provides a truly native user interface feel to the application while retaining a more agile Web model of software development," Hilwa said in his new for-pay report, "The Evolving State of Mobile Software Development."

Hilwa said React Native and other new sophisticated approaches, such as Appcelerator Titanium and Telerik's NativeScript, are in effect hybridizing hybrid mobile development, which traditionally relies on wrappers or containers to package Web-based technologies such as JavaScript, HTML and CSS and then run them in a WebView on devices. This gives hybrid apps some of the advantages of pure Web-based apps and true native apps together.

Those three new approaches "generally try to avoid the WebView component, providing ways to blend in native UI components to achieve a more responsive app," Hilwa said. "Typically, complex client logic is expressed in JavaScript, which utilizes a separate language interpretation engine to achieve higher performance execution on the client."

Bypassing the WebView is key to the attraction of React Native, the IDC analyst said, but the technology needs more work before it moves beyond its use at Facebook and a few other tech companies to significantly impact mainstream enterprise development.

"IDC believes that React Native puts forward an important new paradigm for hybrid app development that liberates mobile developers from the confines of the WebView component, which is typically used with the Apache Cordova hybrid approach," Hilwa said. "By removing the dependency on WebView, React Native essentially delivers native performance and opens the entire capability of the native device platform to the Web developer. React Native is early on the maturity curve and will likely remain unsuited for broad enterprise adoption until late 2016."

Also, though React Native isn't a true cross-platform approach, Hilwa indicated that within the next few years, new cross-platform tooling based on it are likely to emerge for enterprise use.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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