At some point in time, developers realized that in making mobile applications, they were repeating mundane 'base codes' for every project. After a few projects, each developer had his own set of 'engines' and a library of code snippets which could be assembled and themed ('re-skinned' as the industry jargon goes) to get a range of applications out in shorter time frames.
Another important factor which influenced the growth of development tools was the fact that despite its premise of 'write once run anywhere' that Java (the most popular development flavor) proposed, the sheer variety and subtle differences in the JVM implementations and feature-set of handsets made it nearly impossible to have one set of code that could work on all handsets. Netbeans was one of the first IDEs to introduce the concept of 'profiles' that tried to standardize the process of creating multiple builds with pre-compile like instructions. Another significant development was toolkits such as J2ME Polish
All these led to the process of mobile applications development slowly becoming 'design' processes rather than 'development' processes. Put in a different way, it became possible to 'script' a complete application and use a standard script interpreter/ compiler to translate this into a working application on the phone. The net result - one could now develop pretty professional looking applications in a matter of hours rather than weeks! We too, like most development companies had one such framework. These frameworks took a cue from the desktop phenomenon of widgets. Widsets (now acquired by Nokia) was one such initiative. Widsets allowed one to script applications that could be downloaded into the Widsets main application that resided on the phone in a simple point and click operation.
The latest entrant in this category is Yahoo Blueprint. I like what I see here!
From its website:
Blueprint is Yahoo!’s platform for building mobile sites, widgets and applications. Using a simple yet powerful language based on W3C XForms developers can design and host their Blueprint markup which Yahoo! will deliver to 1000s of different mobile devices.
The process is analogous to building a mobile website - you can use any server technology you like such as Apache, IIS, Java or PHP. Just return Blueprint XML and we do the rest. Remember: your Blueprint services run on the same platform that powers our own mobile services, including oneSearch, oneConnect and even our mobile homepage. Not only is it responsive and powerful, but we supply you with analytics to help you find out what makes your customers tick.
I must admit that Yahoo! did a pretty good job with the Y!Go application for the mobile and I think that they have put in a good tool in the hands of the developers with Blueprint. You can now make real slick mobile apps pretty easy. And guess what, this could be your short-cut development tool for the iPhone too! The only negative I could find from a quick read on the docs was the lack of secure communications for a lil more serious apps - I could have missed it, and in any case this could be added easily. So if you're into mobile apps development, go ahead, download the SDK and if possible, do return here to post your feedback.