If you are a mobile marketer, you probably might have heard about the term SDK, Software Development Kit several times while discussing products and services with a software development team. However, do you know what exactly it is and how important it is in software application development?
What is a Software Development Kit (SDK)?
A software development kit (SDK) is a set of tools that allow developers to write or use an existing framework to develop applications for a given platform. SDKs are often the backbone of many popular applications, games, and apps. What’s in your SDK toolbox varies from platform to platform so it makes sense for you to know what SDK tools are available on your chosen software development kit before starting any SDK-related project.
SDK tools are not only limited to the frameworks but also include everything else within it. This could be anything from testing and debugging, all the way through to hardware access like controllers or sensors for your software development kit. Having SDK means you can go beyond just creating an app on a platform by giving developers SDK-level access which is essential if they want their application to function optimally with that particular system. The benefits of SDKs aren’t without consequence however as some platforms choose not to offer SDK tools due to security concerns (Apple’s iOS being one example).
Why You Might Want a Software Development Kit?
SDK can be extremely valuable for companies as they offer a way to access and understand how the platform works. Often, SDKs include documentation that is far more extensive than what’s available online which can be incredibly useful when it comes time to debug your application. Additionally, SDK gives you access to lower-level APIs which might not be available through other means. This can allow developers who are working on porting an existing app or game over to your platforms to do so more easily.
SDKs also come with testing tools that make it possible for devs to find and fix errors in their code before shipping their product out. The best part about SDK? They’re free! All of these benefits make SDK essential for anyone looking to get serious about SDK.
Some things to consider
Some SDKs may have rules or agreements that must be acknowledged and submitted before they can be used—especially for new products in an alpha or beta stage—or for software with algorithms that aren’t disclosed to the public (not open source). A Software Development Kit can also be subject to a license agreement so that the software that’s created doesn’t get released under an incompatible license.
A developer needs to take these things into consideration when choosing which SDK to start working with. For instance:
- An SDK with a proprietary license is incompatible with the development of open-source software.
- SDKs with a General Public License (GPL) won’t work for developing proprietary apps
- There are caveats to working around a Lesser General Public License (LGPL) for projects with proprietary code elements.
Types of Software Development Kit
Most apps are built with a variety of SDKs; for example, a 2019 study found that the average Android app uses 18.2 SDKs. Some SDKs optimize an app for a specific device or operating system, and some let developers insert various tools.
- SDKs by hardware: SDKs aren’t just for web and mobile apps; they’re also used for programming in the Internet of Things (IoT). So if you purchase a set of solar panels, for example, the hardware provider might include an SDK, so developers can program them as desired.
- Mobile device operating system: As we mentioned, designing an app that works on both Android and Apple phones requires an SDK for each.
- Open source SDKs: These SDKs are free to use and invite developers to modify them as they choose. This can confer advantages when it comes to customizability but may also introduce security risks.
- Proprietary SDKs: Unlike open source SDKs, proprietary or commercial SDKs require a license to use and don’t permit developers to change the source code.
In the end, allowing other brands to use your technology via your mobile Software Development Kit opens up opportunities for your brand to reach wider audiences than you can reach on your own. And all it takes is providing a functional SDK tool that other apps can implement and integrate with.