Can Kurogo help satisfy enterprise demand for mobile developers?

Jason Ankeny

If you're a mobile software developer with the skills that pay the bills, then congratulations--corporate America wants you so bad that you can pretty much write your own ticket. Both large enterprises and startups across a host of verticals are looking to bolster their rosters with mobile engineers, but so few developers boast the talent and résumé necessary to create mobile applications that companies are scrambling to fill the void by any means necessary, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report. Conventional wisdom states that because the mobile application ecosystem is still so new, few software developers have accumulated experience writing for smartphones--at the same time, online job listings search engine Indeed Inc. reports that the number of job postings with the keyword "iPhone" tripled over the last year, and listings with the keyword "Android" have quadrupled. Tech job board reports that as of fall 2010, the average mobile salary was about $76,000, but some companies say experienced mobile developers can fetch anywhere from $90,000 to $150,000 annually. 

Different companies are taking different approaches to solving the developer supply and demand problem, the WSJ adds. Social networking startup Ning is mounting recruitment drives on more than a dozen college campuses and holds recruitment drives open to the public, while Hearst Magazines launched an "app lab" to coordinate mobile efforts across publications, hiring two mobile developers with relatively little experience and paying them salaries comparable to what it pays engineers with as much as a decade on the job. Other companies--Major League Baseball's digital unit, for example--are retraining existing engineers to tackle the mobile platform. "If we can find an excellent engineer, we hire him," says CEO Bob Bowman. "You can't always wait for mobile experience, because you might be waiting a long time."

It's inevitable that some companies and institutions will tire of the wait and go looking for a more proactive solution to the problem. Some may find themselves looking in the direction of open source content delivery solutions provider Modo Labs, which last week unveiled its Kurogo mobile development platform--based on the MIT Mobile Framework, Kurogo promises enterprises and universities the tools to easily create their own cross-platform mobile applications based on pre-packaged modules designed to slash development cycles from months to weeks. "Kurogo is designed to save users time, money and resources," says Modo Labs CEO Andrew Yu in an interview with FierceDeveloper. "You don't have to be an expert to build a mobile application."

The Kurogo framework evolved through open source code collaborations with members of iMobileU, a community of higher education institutions--MIT, Harvard University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Central Florida among them--committed to advancing the mobile development cause. Kurogo 1.0 targets smaller educational institutions and includes modules for People Directory, News, Calendar, Links, Maps, Video, Emergency and External Content. Kurogo also boasts support for iPhone and iPad native application development, a web-based administration console for easy site management, and a developer guide for installation and development instructions. "Kurogo works out of the box and enables users to connect their applications to many types of data sources," Yu says. "In a couple of hours you can set up a mobile website that operates across all mobile platforms, including smartphones, feature phones and tablets."

Given Kurogo's academic roots, it makes sense that Modo Labs is promoting the framework to the educational sector--the platform is even offered as a free download under the MIT license. But Yu acknowledges that Kurogo also could help the enterprise segment fulfill its demand for mobile solutions--with or without conventional developer talent on staff. "It's 2011, and there are so many companies with sites that do not work well on a mobile device--they can take something like this to quickly establish a corporate mobile presence," Yu says. "Kurogo isn't going to work for a game developer, but it will work for location-based directories, tour applications and news organizations. The possibilities are endless. We see this as a lot of Lego blocks--there are a whole bunch of pieces to build applications, and more to come." -Jason