Palm webOS by one of its fathers: Mitch Allen, Software CTO of Palm , Inc
Extract from the book "Palm webOS" by Mitch Allen
Mobile Web Challenges
The challenge for client OS providers is far greater than simply delivering a fast, fully featured web browser on a phone. The classic web browser navigation model works poorly on a phone (in fact, some would argue that it’s poor even on a desktopcomputer).
Mobile users are, well, mobile. They are usually in motion, walking, driving, or occupied with something other than their phones. Launching a browser each time you want something on the Web—wading through multiple pages to get to the right spot—istedious, distracting, and slow. Web pages have their own UI models, with navigation and controls separate from andfrequently inferior to those of the device they are displayed on.
Often, the only option is to walk links. Menus, selectors, text editors, and other UI tools that enable rapid user interaction in native applications on the same device can’t be used within the web browser. Launching web pages from bookmarks or moving between web pages usually involves a completely separate UI model from that used to launch native applicationsand generally requires invoking the browser before anything else, adding at least one extra step to most actions.
In addition, web users are forced to initiate all interactions. They must make a request and wait for it to be fulfilled. It is clearly more effective for applications to monitor external events and prompt the user only when something of interest occurs. Ajax and web applications have made a big improvement by handling user input on the client and providing some level of dynamic user interface, but even these applications can’temploy commonly used techniques such as background execution, user alerts, and notifications.
The truth is that despite the hype, a phone with just a fast web browser is still not a truly smart phone. To fully realize the mobile Web, a new application model is needed, one that retainsthe strengths of web development, but with the type of access and power that has been available to native, mobile applications for years.
Palm addresses these challenges with its next generation operating system, Palm webOS. Palm webOS is based upon an innovative design that integrates a window-based modern operating system with a web technology runtime that allows youto build applications using common web languages and tools, without the restriction of working within a web browser.
While Palm webOS is the first to provide this integrated model in a broadly available computing platform, it’s not likely to be the last. There is growing interest in supporting standard APIs within web platforms, such as those in the proposed HTML 5 standard. It seems likely that in time there will be broad support for this development paradigm across all types of hardware and systems.
The Mobile Web Is the Web
We are still in the early stages of application development on mobile devices. Until very recently all mobile applications were designed to work alongside the PC. Some mobile applications, like Palm’s classic PDA applications, were specifically created with the PC in mind, and today’s most popular media solutions continue to rely on the PC for content delivery and storage. Other applications are essentially desktop applications ported to a phone, like many of the wireless email solutions. We are just beginning to see applications that are completely designed and optimized for the wireless mobile user.
Phones are far more personal than PCs; they are almost always with the user, even if they’re not being engaged by the user. With phones, an event-driven model is more appropriate, and mobile applications can best leverage web and device services in useful mashups. Applications that notify users of upcoming calendar events or incoming emails are common, but webOS applications can notify users of traffic on the route to their next appointment, or monitors social network feeds. A movie guide allows users to find movies within the immediate vicinity, purchase tickets, get directions, and set a reminder for the movie time.
Applications designed for the mobile Web are different than applications built before now, and they require a different type of platform. This book explores how Palm webOS is providing that type of platform and shows you how to build those next generationapplications and with them, the new Web—the mobile Web. "