WebCenter Mobile: PhoneGap and ADF Together at Last!

I was always a bit little skeptical about the initial mobile offerings for UCM and WebCenter. They never impressed me, because I felt strongly that these apps were fundamentally flawed in their design...

Why? Because they focused on being Mobile Applications instead of Mobile Web. The first time I held an iPhone, I noticed that it was running a browser that supported HTML5. The first Android was the same. This was at a time where HTML5 support was rare on desktop browsers, and few developers knew how to use it. Nevertheless, I predicted years ago that it would be the future... HTML5 was so powerful, that Flash and native mobile apps were unnecessary for 95% of applications. Many clients asked my advice on mobile apps, and my answer was always the same: "Skip native apps, and focus on the mobile web!"

This week, Oracle announced their next generation of the ADF Mobile toolkit... and (as I predicted) they are going the same route! Native code is no longer the focus: previously, you would create an ADF component, and it would be compiled down into native iOS or Android controls. No more! The next version will compile to HTML5 and be rendered in the mobile browser!

How can this be? With a technology called PhoneGap. It allows you to create your application in nothing but HTML5, render it in a browser, and still access native functionality (camera, location, files) with JavaScript functions. It's basically a wrapper around the built-in HTML5 browser, plus a plug-in library, which together give you an extremely powerful development environment. The next generation of ADF Mobile will be an ADF wrapper around PhoneGap, plus a few extra goodies (that I'm not allowed to talk about yet!). They call these hybrid applications because they are mostly HTML5, with a tiny bit of native code mixed in.

Well, what about those candy-coated user interfaces? How do I get those? The same way as always: mobile JavaScript toolkits. There are several available that can make very attractive interfaces, that render in any smartphone:

If you prefer to roll-your-own UI, I'd recommend Zepto as a minimalist framework instead...

What's next for the web, then? I believe that mobile application development will be the biggest driver for the adoption of HTML5 browsers. Yes, probably only 10% of mobile phones are HTML5-enabled smart phones... but people cycle through cell phones every 2 years. Compared that to the enterprise, some of which stubbornly refuse to upgrade from IE6!

I'd bet 90% of Americans will have a HTML5 mobile phone, before 90% of them are off IE6! Sad, but true... but good news for mobile developers!

UPDATE: Dang it! Just as soon as I blog about this, Adobe goes and purchases PhoneGap! What does this mean for Oracle? Tough to say... it's probably a good thing, since most of PhoneGap is open source. The only piece that's not Open Source is their nifty build engine. But, since Oracle already owns their own build engines (jDeveloper and Eclipse plugin), this is not a stumbling block.

UPDATE 2: It appears that Adobe has done "The Right Thing" and is submitting PhoneGap to the Apache group, and re-branding it as Project Callback. This will hep cement it as "the standard" toolkit for mobile app development.

PhoneGap and W3C standardization

Hey Brian

Excellent blog! When did you get so smart?

So, what do you think about PhoneGap pulling ahead of W3C? Do you think this will cause an issue or will this help pull W3C along faster?

Seth

standards...

I assume you're talking about HTML5? I think it's a slight problem that all browsers implement HTML5 slightly differently, but it would be a bigger problem if they didn't at least try. I haven't had faith in anything the W3C for a long time:

Of course anything useful will pull ahead of the W3C... The W3C is useless and practically irrelevant. Thus, Mozilla, Google, Microsoft, and Apple are adding their own extensions. In this situation, I think Adobe/Nitobi/PhoneGap is the good guy. They are probably the only player who truly cares about innovation and browser interoperability.

I say, more power to them!

Titanium

Its very alluring to write your html5 toolkit+phonegap and get a mobile app, but I have always found it to fall short of my expectations. I have come to love toolkits like titanium and rubymotion now.

I wrote about my thoughts long back http://agiliq.com/blog/2011/02/comparision-iphone-android-phonegap-titanium/ but I changed my opinion later.

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