Telerik’s Icenium tool aims to simplify cross-platform mobile development

Software developer Telerik today released  its Icenium tool which aims to simplify cross-platform mobile development for iOS and Android by enabling developers to use web development languages like HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript to build mobile apps that run natively on devices and can be distributed through app stores.

Icenium logo

Unlike integrated development environments (IDEs), Icenium’s integrated cloud environment (ICE) combines the local coding environment with the ability to work from the cloud, meaning developers can compile an entire app for multiple platforms in one place as well as access code wherever there’s an Internet connection. Right now, iOS and Android have their own SDKs, programming languages and tools. A web developer would have to learn new programming languages like Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android while also taking the time to build an app for one platform only to have to rebuild it for the other.

“Most [web developers] are scared,”  Telerik executive vice president Doug Seven told Inside Mobile Apps. “They are afraid of Objective-C, which is what [they] need to build an iOS app. They are afraid of Java, which is what [they] need to build an Android app. They are languages and tools that they haven’t used before. It’s almost frightening to think about having to learn a new set of skills and technologies. There are millions and millions of web developers that know HTML and JavaScript inside and out and upside down. They’re kind of afraid to learn that other technology and now there’s no reason to.”

After using cloud-based services like Dropbox, Pandora and Evernote, he realized that app development wasn’t in the cloud like many other services.

“The theory that I came into Telerik with was ‘could we leverage the cloud in a way that would enable developers to reach multiple platforms without the historical tight coupling between the development platform and the target platform?'” he said.Icenium Mist

Icenium is more geared toward developing hybrid apps. These type of apps are like native apps that run on a mobile device, but are written with web development languages such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. Hybrid apps also run inside a native container and use a device’s browser engine (not the browser itself) to render the HTML and process the JavaScript locally. Icenium features integrated support for Apache Cordova, also known as PhoneGap, which grants the ability for hybrid apps to access a device’s APIs like the camera, accelerometer, local storage and more via JavaScript.

Consumer and business apps that can be developed with Icenium include content/magazine apps, stock and investment tracking, catalogs and shopping, sports scores (real and fantasy), news feeds and more.

“It sounds a little corny, but it’s sort of unlimited potential with what you can do as long as it can be done in HTML and JavaScript,” explains Seven. “Most applications that’s not a problem. The things you wouldn’t want to use this for would be like, what I refer to as, high poly count games, so Need for Speed and things like that where you have high graphics processing needs where you really want to take advantage of the just raw power of the platform itself.

Icenium’s toolset is broken into two parts, with one additional utility tool. First is Icenium Graphite, which is a locally installed Windows client. Graphite’s benefit as an installed toolset is its ability to take advantage of Incenium LiveSync, which allows developers to see changes to apps made in real-time without having to recompile on devices connected to the computer via USB. Second is Icenium Mist, which is a brower-based client. Since Graphite is a Windows-only installed client, Mac users can only use Icenium through the browser. Seven says a Mac client is coming sometime next year. Both Graphite and Mist work seamlessly with both tools having mostly the same features like syntax coloring and formatting, real-time error detection, refactoring, code navigation and integrated version control, a device simulator and the ability to store all project files in the cloud.Icenium device simulator

Icenium Ion is an extra utility tool that allows developers to deploy and test an app on an iOS device by scanning a QR code. In seconds, an app is up and running inside Ion on an iOS device. When a change is made in one of Icenium’s tools, a person can simply press three fingers on the screen and the app will change with the latest updates. Another added benefit to Ion is its ability to test apps on iOS devices that haven’t been provisioned. Ion is available for free through the Apple App Store.

Lastly, Icenium features built-in support for preparing a developer’s project with guidance and assistance on how to publish an app to the Apple App Store and Google Play. Developers can set up icons, splash screens and digital sign the app using a signed certificate for publishing to an app store.

“We have built a system that leverages the cloud to just decouple you from the platform dependencies and take you all the way from file new project, writing code, testing in the simulator, testing on a physical device to publishing on the app store,” says Seven. “Completely seamless, no need to go outside of the tool.”

Developers can head over to Icenium’s site to start a six month free trial that runs until May, 1 2013 here. After the first six months, which in those months developers get all the abilities of a paid user, Icenium costs $16 a month per developer with an annual contract or $19 a month when paying month-by-month.