18 February 2009

As I like to do every now and then I'm checking into the world of mobile. Theres been a flurry of activity in this space recently, so it's high time I recap, lest I forget. Among the headlines: Adobe announces massive Flash Mobile deployments: iPhone not accounted for, WebKit's just about the official mobile platform browser of choice, though irrelevant for mobile platform development, and finally JavaFX Mobile announced (surprisingly) amidst questions of relevance.

Let's tackle each of these one by one.

First, Adobe's FlashPlayer 10 for SmartPhones debuts. Adobe has also unveiled eBook and PDF Mobile support. Palm's joining the OpenScreen project – Adobe's initiative to bring Flash to the handset as a platform (announced later last year) and finally Flash 10 itself will ship on the Palm Pre, which lends big name brawn to Flash's platform claims. This, and a lot more, is recapped here on Scoble's site.

All of this brings to the foreground just how prevalent the WebKit platform is. WebKit's now the main browser agent on Apple's iPhone in the form of Safari. It's the browser on Google's Android platform, as Chrome. It's the WebOS on Palm. Nokia's Series 60's using it, and a lot more. This means that a consistant browsing experience can be had on many of the new smartphones. Missing from that lineup, curiously, is the Storm. I expect that it'll catch up, eventually, though in the meantime I think there are other issues more prominent in deterring users of the "Flopberry".

Having said all of this, don't get too excited. The presence of this browser doesn't mean what it would if a browser shared that level of prominence on the desktop specifically because a browser simply isn't rich enough to model typical mobile application development scenarios. Things like backgrounding – the ability of a client to "pause" during a phone call - and "actions" or "intents" are simply something that must be modeled at a lower level closer to the firmware.

The only thing potentially helpful is that your investment in languages that terminate statements with ";" is safe! Today, the modern development environment – with the glaring exception of the iPhone – is Java (though not the JME platform!) or JavaScript. The iPhone of course requires Objective C.

Adding another Java platform to the roster, JavaFX 1.1 was just announced and with it news of release and adaptation plans for JavaFX Mobile. Information on the main site (http://www.javafx.com) is sparse, but the list of partners is interesting: LG, Sony Ericsson, among them. It'll be interesting to see what traction this platform gets especially in light of Flash Mobile and the iPhone.