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Intel isn’t really a company you often associate with mobile app development. Whilst you almost certainly have an Intel chip chugging along in the computer you use to read this, their ventures into the mobile world weren’t as successful as they might have hoped, with few manufacturers deciding to use the Intel Atom chip in their Android devices.
But will it revolutionize the workflow of developers everywhere?
However, that’s not an entirely bad thing. Firstly, it will allow you to develop using incredibly familiar web technologies, and to create your application and then deploy it onto multiple platforms. Ultimately, you’re trading off power for flexibility.
Another advantage of writing mobile applications in HTML5 is that you are also able to deploy your applications to the greater web. With XKD you can publish Facebook applications and games, Chrome plugins as well as traditional web applications.
The editor is where any programmer is most at home. This is where we write the code that powers the tools and applications you use on a regular basis. For serious programmers, there are some absolute prerequisites here.
Firstly, it has to have solid syntax highlighting. Whilst this doesn’t affect the end product (at least not directly), it does ensure that any code you produce is easy to read later on. It also helps if there is code completion, to reduce the amount of text you end up writing and thus reduce the risk of getting felled by a serious strain of RSI.
XDK delivers here, and delivers well. Code is highlighted beautifully and is easy to read. In addition, the code completion is powerful and is on par with any commercial editor. However, I feel like there could be more here. It’d be great if it came with the ability to install plugins, not unlike the venerable Sublime Text Editor. I often found myself pining for the likes of Emmet (formerly Zen Coding), which would have saved me a fair bit of time.
Once you’ve got some code, you’ll want to see how it looks on different platforms. XDK allows you to run your code in a number of resolutions and dimensions, including the Apple iPhone, the Google Nexus 7 tablet and the Nokia Lumia 920.
You can also define the positioning of the device, for when you wish to test out code which makes use of the devices accelerometer, as well as changing the screen orientation of the device itself. This is handy for testing your code across multiple devices without forking out thousands of pounds.
If you want to do a bit more hands-on testing, you can always push your project to your device with Intel’s App Preview. This multi-platform application is available on Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS and allows you to shove your code through the inter-tubes to your phone, tablet or laptop.
Once you’ve gotten your app all polished, you can build it and then submit it for sale on various app stores. This step isn’t done on your computer, but is rather outsourced to Intel’s own servers. There’s a bit of configuration to be done here, but nothing too fiddly.
You can target Android, Crosswalk for Android, iOS, Windows 8, Windows Phone, Tizen, Amazon and Nook. Disappointingly, you cannot build your application for Blackberry 10. I found this to be absolutely bizarre. Blackberry 10 is still very much alive, and if you spend any time in a first class lounge at an airport or train station, you will see no shortage of Blackberry Q10s. In fact, most Blackberry 10 applications are built entirely with web technologies. It would have been trivial to add BlackBerry 10 functionality to XDK.
XDK is a solid development environment, and for anyone looking to make their millions of the mobile marketplaces of the world, if offers a good place to get started. Whilst it would be nice to have support for Blackberry 10 and for plugins, it recognize that this is an incredible effort on behalf of Intel and at its price point is incredibly enticing. Give it a try and let me know what you think!