Getting a grasp on mobile app definitions can be tough. For instance, app wrapping is part of mobile application management, but there's more to MAM than just app wrapping. And there are so many hybrid apps now, you might not even be able to tell the difference between Web and native apps.
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The term "app" is short for "application" and refers to any software program that performs a specific function for a user or another application. There are different kinds of mobile apps, including Web, legacy, hybrid, killer and native apps.
Web apps live on a remote server and are delivered to users over the Internet through a browser. Any website component that performs a function for the user can be considered a Web app, so even Google's search engine counts. Web apps can be easier for IT to manage, because they all run on the same platform.
Native apps are applications developed for a specific platform or device. Because native apps interact directly with the operating system, they often perform better than Web apps. Native apps can also take advantage of the specific features of an OS or device, which sets them apart from Web apps.
Most apps are hybrid apps, which combine native and Web app features. Hybrid apps work whether or not devices are connected to the Internet, work with a device's file system and integrate with Web services. For example, online banking apps store some data on devices, but users access them over the Web.
A program that convinces users to buy the system it runs on is a killer application. A classic example is the spreadsheet program VisiCalc, which brought the PC into businesses. A killer app may be an application that never existed before, or a specific application with widespread appeal.
Legacy apps were built on older technologies but are still important to business processes. The challenge for IT comes in keeping that old technology working while converting it for new, more efficient platforms. Fortunately, legacy apps often use languages and OSes with open or standard programming interfaces, which can make them easier to update.
Unlike mobile device management, mobile application management (MAM) focuses on securing and deploying software on smartphones and tablets. MAM also involves licensing, configuration, maintenance, usage tracking and policy enforcement. MAM systems give IT the ability to remotely wipe corporate apps and data from a user's device while leaving personal information alone.
Often used in conjunction with MAM, app wrapping puts a layer of security and management features over an app -- without changing the app itself -- before it is deployed to users. App wrapping with MAM lets admins set policy elements that apply to one app or a group of apps, such as whether a certain app needs user authentication.
"Metro" was the original name used to describe the new style of touch-based apps for Windows RT and Windows 8 devices. Microsoft has since said that Metro was just a code name, but there hasn't been any word from Microsoft about what the official name of these apps will be.
Mobile app development is the process of writing software mobile devices. Applications that are developed for a specific OS perform very well with that operating system, but when developers write an app for iOS, there's little code they can reuse for the same app on Android. Though native apps aren't going away anytime soon, the future of mobile app development leans toward device agnostic, browser-based apps with apps that are touch-friendly and load quickly.
Mobile application processors support all the system capabilities a device's apps need -- memory management, graphic processing, multimedia decoding -- in a self-contained environment. A mobile application processor may be independent of other specialized processors on the device. Some vendors develop and manufacture their own processors, and others buy them from third-party vendors.
This was first published in September 2012