Embarcadero releases app development platform for Android

US company Embarcadero Technologies has added support for Android to its RAD Studio app development suite, allowing developers to design apps that can run like native apps on multiple devices and languages.

Embarcadero released RAD Studio XE4 in April, allowing developers to use one code base for devices including the iPhone, iPad, Windows Slates and Surface Pro tablets, along with Mac OS X and Windows PC applications. It has now added Android as part of the XE5 release.

The company recently surveyed 221 Australian developer firms, the vast majority of which developed applications for Windows, as well as for an average of one other device, including iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android, Macs, Linux, Windows Phone and Windows Slate/Surface Pro, and Blackberry.

However, most respondents to the survey said they would like to be able to deploy applications to an average of around three devices other than Windows, including 81 per cent for Android, 81 per cent for iOS, 48 per cent for OS X , 34 per cent for Windows Phone, 29 per cent for Windows Slate/Surface Pro, 25 per cent for Linux and nine per cent for Blackberry.

Malcolm Groves, Embarcadero’s Sydney-based senior director for the Asia Pacific and Japan, said it was “astonishing” how quickly Android has begun to challenge iOS.

“We see this across the board when we go into large companies and into small companies,” Mr Groves said. “We got a good response when we did the iOS support, and a lot of people said that's great but call me when you can do Android. It's interesting news for Apple.”

While there are no figures available for the healthcare market specifically, there is no reason to think Android might not now challenge iOS in the device market for doctors, who were very early adopters of Apple devices.

“Part of the issue is that Apple was very early to market with the iPad, the tablet market, and a lot of adoption happened there,” Mr Groves said. “It's a good device and it was the only player.

“But over the last 18 months or so we are seeing with things like the Nexus tablet, they are really great competitors for iOS. It's not news to anyone that there are a lot of restrictions around the Apple application and what you can do on the device, whereas with Android a lot of software developers and hardware manufacturers are finding they are able to do more simply because it is so much more open.

“They have fewer restrictions on what they can do and they have tighter integration with hardware and things like medical equipment and devices. There is tighter integration, they have more control over the deployment – that is the attractive feature from a vendor point of view because you are not so limited.”

While Microsoft has had well-publicised difficulties in the mobile hardware sphere, Mr Groves said the survey showed that there were “respectable numbers” of people wanting to develop apps for the Windows phone and the Surface Pro.

“The core of the response to this survey is Windows developers so there is probably some natural compatibility there, but it's interesting that the aspirations for those platforms are running so far ahead of their market share,” he said.

What RAD Studio XE5 offers all developers is the ability to write one app and run it across multiple devices, and they will perform like native apps.

“Our strength and differentiation is that you are not going for a lowest common denominator approach,” he said. “On each of those platforms, you can access the specific capabilities of the device without taking the hit and saying 'if I want to do that, I'll have to write another application'. You get the benefits of a native solution, and the benefits of a cross-platform solution.”

There is also a need to develop apps for legacy applications, which was a problem facing Queensland-based secure messaging and EHR vendor Medical-Objects. It has written a lot of its software in the Delphi programming language, and is using RAD Studio to reuse some of that code within iOS.

Embarcadero also works with Hitachi Medical, which has developed a Windows desktop solution for dentists. Called Delta View, it allows dentists to show medical information like x-rays to patients and talk through any procedures with them.

Rather than drag a PC over to the patient, dentists naturally wanted to be able to use the app on an iPad, but being Windows-based, this is normally a complex thing to do and takes many months. By using the previous version of RAD Studio, Hitachi was able to use the same code for both devices, and to design an app for iOS within a month and have it accepted on iTunes within three.

Many electronic medical records and x-ray image viewers have also been developed for the Windows platform but Hitachi said there was increasing demand for tablet versions that allow information to be easily shown to patients.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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