Addressing Mobile Browser Fragmentation

By Darryl K.  |  Posted 2008-07-21 Print this article Print

Although browser fragmentation is an issue on the desktop, nowhere is it more of a concern than in the mobile and wireless space.

A panel of experts spoke on the issue of browser fragmentation and its impact on the mobile and wireless space at a meeting of the NYSIA (New York Software Industry Association) on July 14, warning developers not to expect things to change very soon.

"In the browser space, should I be developing for all the operating systems?" asked Tyler Lessard, director of BlackBerry ISV (Independent Software Vendor) Alliances and Developer Relations for RIM (Research in Motion). "For the next couple of years there's going to be fragmentation. You have to pick your spots—knowing what your target market is and optimize for those platforms."

However, Lessard warned developers not to go and build applications that are "very rich and very full of DHTML [Dynamic HTML] and JavaScript" if they want them to be easily ported for use on different platforms.

"At Nokia, we build on the WebKit open-source platform, and we're striving to stay in sync with all the open standards," said Eric John, director of marketing for Forum Nokia, Nokia's developer community. "There will be continued dialogue. It feels like 1998 all over again," John said, referring to the browser wars between Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator in the late 1990s.

"We're not doing fragmentation intentionally to make your life difficult," Lessard said. For instance, at RIM, "we value long battery life. You can't have that if you have a super processor running, and you can't have that if you're running JavaScript all day long," which affects the RIM browser decision, he said.

Asked if there was anything that could be done in the short term to help developers who want to build applications that run across different mobile browser environments, the experts agreed that change was not likely within the next year or two.

However, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), among other groups, is working on trying to address "interoperability" issues across the mobile Web.

According to the activity statement of the W3C's MWI (Mobile Web Initiative): "While becoming increasingly popular, mobile Web access today still suffers from interoperability and usability problems. W3C's Mobile Web Initiative ... addresses these issues through a concerted effort of key players in the mobile production chain, including authoring tool vendors, content providers, handset manufacturers, browser vendors and mobile operators."

Meanwhile, the OpenAjax Alliance has established a wish list of features for future browser platforms.

What would you like to see in the browser world? |

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