by Ajit Jaokar
(Richard's Note: Ajit is the second of my guest bloggers on Read/WriteWeb and he will be writing on Mobile Web 2.0 and digital convergence. Ajit runs a book publishing company called futuretext, which specializes in these topics. He also chairs Oxford university's next generation mobile applications panel and is a member of the Web 2.0 Workgroup.)
will quadruple from 500 million to 2 billion people. One billion of those people will come onto the Web using cheap pocket and wrist devices running multimedia content.In the next five years the number of global web surfers
In parallel, as web 2.0 starts to become mainstream, browser technology is becoming pervasive. In the PC/Internet world, the browser is fast becoming the universal client. However, there is a crucial difference between the PC world and the browser world.
In the PC world: for desktop apps we need one type of program to run a specific type of application (MS Word to view word documents, Excel to view spreadsheets and so on). In contrast, we can use the browser to view any type of application - i.e. one client for many applications. This makes application development more optimal and less susceptible to the vagaries of software running on the client, in this case the PC.
So with higher spec mobile devices and greater bandwidth, let us consider the question: can or should ALL mobile applications be implemented using browser technology?
After all, the browser works well on the PC as a universal client - why not on the mobile device? A corollary to this question is: are there fundamental differences with browsing on a mobile device vs. browsing on the web?
To understand the differences between browsing on the web and on a mobile device, we have to consider factors such as:
a) Intermittent connections - unlike on the web, the wireless network
connection is relatively unstable and is affected by factors such as coverage (e.g. you
lose your connection in a tunnel);
b) Bandwidth limitations - for example even when 3G coverage is available, the actual bandwidth is far less;
c) The need for data storage on the client - if the device has no (or little) local storage, all data has to be downloaded every time. This is not optimal given intermittent and expensive bandwidth;
d) Finally, and most importantly, a local application provides a richer user experience - especially for applications such as games.
There are other factors such as limited user input capabilities, screen sizes and so on.
Some of the above factors are getting better, for example coverage blackspots are decreasing. But the overall user experience remains one of the most important factors.
So, to answer our question - no, we cannot develop all mobile applications using the browser only. However, as we shall show in subsequent posts, these limitations are being overcome through Ajax and mobile web 2.0.
Ajit Jaokar's blog about mobile web 2.0 is Open Gardens.