Computer scientist seeks to improve portability of mobile device applications

August 3, 2012
Eli Tilevich’s work to solve the problems of porting applications across mobile devices and platforms has garnered him one of 10 worldwide awards presented by the Microsoft Research Software Engineering Innovation Foundation. Credit: Virginia Tech

Mobile computing devices will probably overtake the personal computer as the most common means for accessing the Internet worldwide sometime in 2013 and it may not be a seamless transition, according to Eli Tilevich, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech.

Tilevich's work to solve the problems of porting applications across mobile devices and platforms has garnered him one of 10 worldwide awards presented by the Microsoft Research Software Engineering Innovation Foundation (SEIF).

Since "mobile devices differ in their screen size and input/output facilities," porting applications across mobile devices and platforms present "several difficulties," Tilevich said. "A (GUI) may need to be adjusted significantly when ported to run on a different device."

As an example, Tilevich explained that software vendors often provide two very distinct application versions for a specific platform's smart phone and tablet in order to accommodate for the differences in screen size and the presence of special hardware such as a receiver.

In particular, the smart phone market is highly fragmented with an array of different models fighting to dominate the field. "As a result, successful smart must often be ported between different mobile devices and platforms, incurring great costs for the makers of mobile software," Tilevich said.

"To seamlessly port the applications across mobile platforms requires a systematic and automated approach that is called device-independent mobile applications," Tilevich added. His research on these applications, Tilevich hopes, will be able to run on any smart phone and "represent a revolutionary development model for smart phone applications, reducing software development costs and maximizing profits."

With his new award, Tilevich will focus on porting Android applications to run on Windows phones to accommodate the immediate needs of Microsoft. The computer scientist then plans to generalize his model approach so that it can be functional for all major .

Microsoft Research presents the Software Engineering Innovation Foundation Awards to support academic research in software engineering technologies, tools, practices, and teaching methods.

The goals of the 2012 round of foundation awards are: to stimulate and advance software engineering practices in the areas of mobile and cloud computing; and to continue to support academic research in technologies, tools, practices, and teaching methods.

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