Progress Software just debuted the latest version of the Telerik application development platform for mobile development. It's an important release for Bedford, Mass.-based Progress, which bought Telerik, the makers of the Sitefinity web content management system (WCMS), late last year.

Now barely a year old – this Telerik platform launched in February 2014 – it is difficult to imagine that major changes could be so quickly introduced. But as Aygun Suleymanova, head of Platform Product Marketing at Telerik, explained, the platform has gained significant traction. Specifically, some 20,000 apps have been built with it by more than 600 enterprises, to say nothing of the thousands of individual developers.

So scratch that supposition that little could have changed in the space of a year. In fact what Telerik has done is taken the usage data and customer feedback to development more capabilities to make development that much faster.

From Fast to Faster

"This release is about the speed of mobile development across the entire development lifecycle and empowering developers to build much faster using their existing web development skills," Suleymanova said.

CMSWire caught up with Suleymanova as the new version was being released. There are four key features:

Device Cloud Testing. Mobile app testing is tedious, Suleymanova said, because there are so many devices to test against. "You need to have the variations of those physical devices at hand and test against each." Device Cloud testing allows developers to simultaneously test against hundreds of devices that are in the cloud, she says. "This improves the speed of testing significantly."

Screen Builder. This tool is for those scenarios in which a developer has to code from scratch the app screens and functionalities that are common across many use cases. For example, a scrolling list view, a home screen can be common in most apps. With the Screen Builder feature, developers can leverage pre-built and pre-wired screens, with hooks to data (they don’t even have to code for connectivity, Suleymanova says) and get their app 80 percent built without a single line of code.

Mobile App Quick Start Templates. Mobile development is still new to most developers, Suleymanova notes. To that end, "we have created quick start tutorials that guide them through building a whole app in just under 15 minutes. As a result, the developers' engagement with the product has quadrupled, and it cut the developers’ ramp-up time significantly."

NativeScript. This is a beta open source development framework that supports fast cross-platform native development using JavaScript.

Addressing All Users

The updates also align with the key trends that are happening in the industry, Suleymanova said. "Allowing business users who don’t have deep programming skills to build apps is one of them. With the addition of Screen Builder, an organization that uses the Telerik Platform to build apps can choose to use either of these approaches depending on the skills they have in house: code, low code, or no code." 

Also, she continued, JavaScript is becoming a widely used standard for building apps – not just mobile, but also web, server-side development, and deployment (node.js). Telerik Platform is making a huge bet on JavaScript and fully supports this trend with NativeScript for mobile development as well, she says.

NativeScript is the feature that excites her the most.

"A lot of companies still see native as the best approach for developing mobile apps, but it can be hard to develop for native as you need to have the knowledge of native languages such as Objective C (for iOS), Java (for Android), C# for Windows, etc." Solutions available trying to address cross-platform development still use unfamiliar scripts for styling and sometimes limit the developers in making post-generation code edits, she noted.

"What NativeScript does is let you share 100 percent of the native UI code, uses only pure standards, and allows easy portability and edits after building apps. And it is going to be open source! We believe it can become THE standard for building cross-platform native apps."

This release focuses on helping the web developers who have JavaScript development skills cross the chasm to mobile much more easily and faster, Suleymanova said. "Both for those who are individual developers, development shops and those who are part of an enterprise building employee and customer apps. As a testament to this our developer adoption rates increase significantly month-over-month, a majority of the increases come from web developers who are turning to mobile, who want to build a mobile app that is much more than just an HTML5 app."

Rare Job Skills

You can't talk to someone in tech these days without touching on the IT skills shortage. Granted, this is not necessarily specific to Telerik, but it is a topic we have been watching. Suleymanova's take?

From a mobile standpoint, I think the rarest skills are still the native development skills, the languages mentioned earlier. New developers that enter the market go one of the two ways – most of them want to appeal to many employers and cast a wide net; those are the ones that jump on the JavaScript bandwagon – because it's easy, and it's growing fast. The ones that are really passionate about native, and want to build a career around native, focus on it, and native skills are also expensive."