Programming on Mobile Devices


This is a thought that’s been rather bugging me for sometime now:

Is writing code (programming) via mobile devices really not a very feasible idea?

In the current scenario, almost all conventional programming is done on desktop computers (PCs, laptops and the likes), wherein we have a standard keyboard which is used to write down all the code, and a relatively large enough display device to help us visualize what we are writing. However, with the mercurial rise in popularity of mobile devices we have seen a huge shift from conventionally used devices to mobile devices with almost all major aspects of modern day computing making a gradual yet steady shift towards mobile computing.

We see a lot of developers now focusing on “Programming for mobile devices“, however there is an evident lack of focus on “Programming on mobile devices“, which is actually quite weird in my honest opinion. On one hand we are talking about a truly mobile world, where almost every aspect of computing is being made available for on the go mobile devices. Whereas, on the other hand, for the very basic necessities for enabling these mobile functionalities we fallback to traditional computers (and by traditional, I do take into account laptops as well, because no matter how small in size they may be, they still follow the same desktop oriented norms).

Why is it so that we aren’t yet completely comfortable with the thought of being able to write a piece of code on our mobile handsets? I know some people may argue that it is possible to write code in some ABC language using a XYZ software on a tablet device. However, what I ask is that are you really comfortable with the current scenario? Why can’t we find a nice alternative way to make programming on devices such as mobile handsets more intuitive, organic, comfortable and developer friendly?

The main problem with devices as small as mobile handsets as I see it, is a combination of low resolution / small screen size + lack of a comfortable keyboard / input device. But is it really the main challenge that we are talking abut here? Or is our mindset the main challenge? Is it really that difficult to take on the challenge of redesigning the existing programming methodology and create an efficient solution for mobiles, or is it just that we are just too lazy and or narrow minded to explore the possibilities of programming on mobile devices.

I have heard the proverb which says “Nothing is impossible“, however, I think there’s an even more dangerous public opinion which states “This is not feasible!” which generally results in the eventual death of ideas. But is feasibility really applicable here or should it be the willingness and openness in one’s mind to imagine and realize the things which others might reject as non-feasible and bring about a much needed change in the paradigms? What do you think? Please do leave your thoughts on this as comments below.

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About Sayak Sarkar

Web Ninja, Open Source Evangelist, Mozillian, Geek, M.Sc. (Computer Applications) from Symbiosis Institute Of Computer Studies & Research (SICSR), Pune, Maharashtra, India. Worked at Mozilla Foundation, Red Hat, Software Development & Research Cell at SICSR. Originally from Kolkata, West Bengal. Open Source Contributor, Interested in Web Development as well as Technological Localizations. Follower of all updates related to Free and Open Source Software.

Posted on March 13, 2013, in Random Thoughts, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. As continuing undergrad of IT, I truly believe in the potential and the future possibilities for mobile computing.

    From looking at my friends, professors, work & family, it seems to me that it has already become a reality.

    I don’t see why mobile programming should not be feasibly possible on my Samsung Galaxy Android phone, (specifically the earlier models with a flip up keyboard, like the Samsung Epic)

    As much text-ing, browsing, and other cool things I’ve done on surfing thru mobile sites with a decently sized touch screen and an ergonomically sized keypad, I think coding some dangerously powerful scripts is possible.

    This may be hard to believe, but I remember seeing a couple of videos on Youtube of some cheeky fellow in the Netherlands had the capability of running a PLC script on his mobile device to shut down power to not one but two different skyrise buildings at night and flip the power back on with a mere touch of a button using that same script. It was insanely scary.

    There was another one where he raised the draw bridge to one of the canals in the city, causing some great confusion and chaos in the traffic.

    Well, that’s my 2 cents to this very interesting article, I enjoyed reading. :)

  2. Yea i infinitely agree with this post and love it a thousand times. Room should be made for mobile programming, it may not be exactly feasible but it can still serve. Just a matter of choice

    • I’ve totally had a deployment and coding environment on a tiny tablet with fold-out keyboard. If you want to do it on touch-only, the keyboards have to drastically improve. But I can code anywhere. Heck, I even did production support via RDP on my Android Phone.

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