Building Mobile Web Apps: Inexpensive, Rapid

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-05-05 Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 

In contrast, building mobile Web applications can be inexpensive and rapid because "HTML/CSS3/JavaScript is the new platform," Williams said. Moreover, expertise for these technologies is abundant. Developers can achieve a native look and feel using CSS3 styling and themes and mobile browsers converging on WebKit, Williams said. In fact, the iPhone, Android and the Palm Pre are already there, he added.

"WebKit is becoming the platform and the way to get apps," Williams said. And MobiOne will focus on WebKit and the HTML/CSS/JavaScript platform, he said. "With the Web-based model, application installation and update is simple."

However, with native mobile applications, application installation and update can be difficult because users have to go through a device manufacturer's "app store," which may not be appropriate for enterprises with controlled access applications, Williams said. And in-house sync or server installation is not possible with many handsets, he said.

"By building their own storefronts, companies are trying to emulate Apple, but they're out of their element," said Maher Masri, president of Genuitec. "The storefront is a way to lock customers in. But trying to lock customers in actually locks customers out."

Williams said Genuitec, which is known for building Eclipse-based application development and lifecycle management tools for Java developers, got the idea for MobiOne last summer when some of its enterprise customers asked for help in getting their enterprise applications out to mobile devices. Prior to officially changing the name of its mobile Web technology to MobiOne on May 5, Genuitec called it "Mobile Web Studio" as a working code name for the technology.

MobiOne will include editing tools and debugging capabilities, said Wayne Parrott, vice president of product development at Genuitec. "We will deliver a collection of tools, services and technologies at your fingertips," he said.

Genuitec will also introduce the concept of personalities to its solutions. The first will be an iPhone personality on top of WebKit. "The approach we're taking right now is the Web is for everybody," Parrott said.

However, Parrott was quick to point out the differences between MobiOne and solutions such as PhoneGap, which is an open-source development tool for building iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and other mobile applications with JavaScript.

"PhoneGap has to install on the device itself; what we have is an emulation setup," Parrott said.

Parrott said the technology behind MobiOne is what will drive a project Genuitec has proposed to the Eclipse Foundation known as the Blinki Mobile Web Project. Blinki was formerly known as the FireFly DevKit Project. According to the Eclipse page describing it, Blinki, formerly known as Firefly, is "a proposed open source subproject under the Device Software Development Platform (DSDP)."

In addition, the Eclipse Web page said:

"The FireFly DevKit project intends to develop an extensible mobile web developer kit for use in creating and testing traditional and next-generation mobile RIA applications.  The new generation of high-speed data networks and powerful mobile internet devices such as smartphones equipped with web browsing capabilities like the iPhone are enabling a dramatic new level of personal and social connectedness for millions of mobile users. These users effectively take the web with them wherever they go. Unfortunately much of the web content and services currently available to mobile users is designed for use on laptops and work stations and is generally not well suited for use on the much smaller mobile internet devices. The FireFly DevKit will help address the development challenges that web designers and programmers face when modernizing existing web content and developing new innovative web applications and services for use on mobile internet."

MobiOne, according to Parrott, is built on top of Eclipse technology as well as WebKit and other standard Web technologies.

"We perceive what's happening today around the mobile Web and its impact on the industry in the same way Eclipse impacted the application development in 2001 when it hit the streets," Masri said. "With the way browsers are becoming operating systems, directionally there are a lot of similarities to what we saw in Eclipse in 2000 and 2001."

Masri reiterated that all the hot new smartphones are "rolling out with highly capable browsers." And although Genuitec has upward of 2 million downloads of its MyEclipse technology for enterprise Java application development, on the mobile front, "people are ready to move away from the heavy stuff to WebKit and new lightweight and open Web technologies," he said. 




 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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