What's the point?
Posted Mar 1, 2012 19:23 UTC (Thu) by khim
In reply to: What's the point?
Parent article: Mozilla announces HTML5-based phone
The alternative being to provide another platform with some kind of native support in addition to web technologies?
Before we can discuss path we need to know the destination. What's the goal of the whole excercise?
I'm not sure this buys you anything in even the short term of the next few years.
Long term we are all dead. Battle for the mobile happens here and now. It'll be decided in a next 2-3 years and finished in 5. That's why Microsoft is so desperate: it knows it needs to win in the next few years or else it's toast. Mozilla acts like it has all the time in the world.
Web technologies are moving fast.
Hard to agree here. It took about ten years to finally get 3D (arrived on desktop in 1996, on web in 2007). It still does not support threading (in the era of multicore CPUs!) - and it's not clear if it'll ever will. It's support for legacy libraries is pitiful (yes, you can use emscripten or something similar, but speed, and, more importantly, power consumption will be awful). And so on. It looks like web technologies are moving insanely fast, but that's just because they stagnated for years and now are playing catch up. They are still years behind native.
It is a compelling argument to develop a web only application to gain cross platform support.
Sure. That's because we have no clear winner on mobile: Apple refuses to be it (the old "integrated hardware and software" gambit which failed few times already) and Android have not yet reached critical mass (that's why Microsoft still have a chance).
In times like this "cross-platform solutions" sound good. It was a compelling argument 20 years ago, too. Remember UCSD p-System? Excel used p-code to support both Windows and Mac. In about the same time Windows NT (with support for IA-32, MIPS R3000/R4000, Alpha, PowerPC, Itanium, AMD64 and ARM) was created. Once clear winner formed all these clumsy cross-platform solutions were thrown right out.
Nevermind that any apps developed for this platform will work with likely minor changes on all of the other platforms.
This is key point. Even if some developers will actually switch to web technologies not all of them will do! Thus any platform which supports only cross-platform technologies is at disadvantage by default. If it wants to win it needs something else. It needs it badly! What is it?
Directly towards your point, I'm aware of several companies that are rewriting their native applications for iPhone etc to use web technologies, explicitly because they don't want to deal with multiple platforms.
Sure. It's one way of doing cross-platform development. There are others, as I've pointed out: Qt, SDL, etc. B2G does not support them.
It may reduce the feature set is some cases but it seems pretty clear that the web api is getting closer to native apis all of the time.
Not really. Native is always at least one step (usually two) ahead. Especially when you'll include things like power consumption in the equation (and on mobile you can't ignore it, it's not a desktop and not even a laptop).
Sure, if your application is tied to some other service and noone else can use it (things like Google Maps or some specialized app like bank-client) then you can use web technologies to save the costs. But if it's just an app vs webapp then webapp loses 99% of time (it wins when creator of native app is truly incompetent and just does not know how to write good app).
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