Monday, June 28, 2010

Mobile Apps or Mobile Web or both? -June 28th

By Andrew Frost

There’ve been some discussions recently about the relative benefits of applications that are created as native mobile apps (e.g. for iTunes, Ovi Store, Android Market etc) or applications that are deployed via the mobile web. Andrew Till commented on this discussion recently on our blog following the Open Mobile Summit conference at the end of May.

The obvious benefit to a web-based deployment is that anyone with an internet-connected device can access it. No longer are you bound to application stores or particular brands of device, you can create something that anyone (maybe even desktop users) can access. The downside though is that you’re unlikely to be able to leverage the full power and integration of each individual device, due to a number of factors such as the underlying browser engine (i.e. Webkit or something else), the data models implemented by the device vendor and any unique interaction models implemented on the device that you need to consider in order to deliver a consistent user experience. So while web-deployment will certainly remove a lot of challenges it will not, as yet, be able to address all the challenges and hence your application will be inherently limited.

A new development in this area (on mobile devices at least) is the release of Adobe’s Integrated Runtime (AIR) 2 which is going to be available on a number of different platforms, initially on Google Android. AIR 2 brings a number of benefits:

  • Includes the Flash Player 10.1 with the new developer features and enhancements, so it is simpler to create an application that runs both as a web-based application and as a native application on a disconnected mobile phone

  • Applications appear as native – so despite being created using Flash/MXML, they can be deployed from application portals and installed on a device as a native application.

  • Potential for extended integration. AIR 2 has APIs for accessing a device accelerometer as well as supporting gestures and multi-touch, and the likely integration is going to expand further.

This last area is one in which Teleca has a great deal of experience, extending the capability of the Flash Lite player on mobile and embedded devices to allow OEMs to use Flash content for much more than just games and utilities – enabling tight device integration and using Flash content for the whole device UI, for example. Using Flash and AIR 2 capabilities to provide home screens and UIs on platforms such as Android may help companies to quickly and easily differentiate their products.
Teleca are heavily involved in projects using Adobe’s new Flash Platform run-times including Flash Player 10.1 and Flash Lite 4 and have also created some demos using AIR 2. This is an area we are seeing a growing level of interest in from developers and we can expect more growth over the coming quarters.

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