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Time to Take the Mobile Web Seriously

If you develop native applications, you live on the left-hand side of this image. You’re close to phone internals and you can use hardware APIs to take full advantage of sensors, location based services, GPS, camera and other components inside the phone. Of course, that also means that you have to port, test and maintain versions for all the platforms your customers use — but you can’t have everything.

If you’re a Web application developer, you live on the right-hand side of the image. The Web is your oyster, and you serve rich content to your customers from the cloud through the browser and JavaScript™ engine they all have on their phones. Unfortunately, that run-of-the-mill browser and engine mean that you can’t get as close to the hardware as you’d like — but you can’t have everything either. Or, maybe you can. But you have to start taking the mobile Web as seriously as we have.

Rich Web Applications

At our annual Uplinq conference last month, I presented on developing rich Web applications for smartphones and on getting access from the Web to in-phone hardware resources. That level of access can put some very rich Web applications in your users’ future:

• An auction site could include a “take photo” button so that the user could write a description of the object for sale, photograph it with an in-browser camera and post it to the Web – entirely within the browser (as demonstrated in Paul Jacobs’ Uplinq keynote).

• Location-based services that annotate maps and real-time views with restaurants and other businesses could help users interact with their surroundings.

• An online meeting application could allow participants to use the camera for video conferencing – without downloading and installing native software.

How do we get to that future? We improve two areas shown in the image above – the browser/JavaScript engine and the JavaScript APIs – where our Web Technologies initiative has been focusing since 2009.

Qualcomm Innovation Center, Inc., (QuIC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm that focuses on mobile open source contributions, has been working on optimizations to the WebKit browser engine and the V8 JIT JavaScript engine. There’s a lot of room for faster page downloads and reloads, better interactivity with Web applications and pages, snappier response to user commands and intelligent quality of service in multimedia streams, and QuIC has been finding it.

QuIC is also working with HTML5, CSS and XML for JavaScript APIs that reach from the browser down to components that you used to be able to touch only from native applications. In the very near future, your complex, cloud-based applications and 3D Web-based games will have access to hardware that will bring Web-application performance close to parity with that of native applications.

There will still be a role for high-performance, function-specific native applications, but I think the momentum of the mobile Web will carry the market in the long run.

Your turn

So, how do you get in on it? Start by visiting the Web Technologies section of the Qualcomm Developer Network (QDevNet). We’ve posted a series of papers there on what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and what it means for you. We’ll announce availability of the devices, tools and software builds that contain Web Technologies optimizations so you can aim your applications and content through the browser into phone hardware. And you can start taking the mobile Web as seriously as we have. Sy Choudhury is…

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