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InfoQ Homepage News Will The iPhone Be The Tipping Point For Mobile Ajax?

Will The iPhone Be The Tipping Point For Mobile Ajax?

Ajax has largely been a desktop browser focused technology during its initial wave of interest. Apple's iPhone however may be the key to Ajax becoming a mobile "standard" as well. At WWDC Apple announced Web 2.0 as the SDK for iPhone applications:

...Developers can create Web 2.0 applications which look and behave just like the applications built into iPhone, and which can seamlessly access iPhone’s services, including making a phone call, sending an email and displaying a location in Google Maps. Third-party applications created using Web 2.0 standards can extend iPhone’s capabilities without compromising its reliability or security...

Initial specifications of the Safari browser on the phone as reported by Ajaxian include:


  • 10MB max html size for web page
  • Javascript limited to 5 seconds run time
  • Javascript allocations limited to 10MB
  • 8 documents maximum loaded on the iPhone due to page view limitations
  • Quicktime used for audio and video
  • No Java
  • No Flash
  • the page view feature lets you look at multiple websites and documents by scrolling thru them one after another
  • Full PDF support
  • double tap for zoom in
  • one finger as a mouse used to
  • two fingers as a mouse used to
  • new telephone links allows you to integrate phone calls directly from your webpage. remember this is only on safari.
  • built in google maps client for integrated mapping from your website

The week that has followed as already spawned a Google Groups mailing list for iPhone development and a directory of iPhone "ready" Ajax applications.  One would assume that other mobile devices with similar levels of CSS and Javascript support would be able to access many of the same applications.

Not all developers are happy with the direction however. Mac software developer Rogue Amoeba blogged on the subject:

Creating web apps to run on the iPhone will be a great solution for many tasks, but it is not a new solution, nor Apple hasn't done anything new for developers. This is what we had from the get-go, when Apple announced there'd be a full-fledged browser on the phone. Web apps on the iPhone will also be stuck with something of a second-class status compared to local apps, as they can't be accessed from the main menu, they can't be used offline, they can't access the local disk, and more...From FUD about bringing down networks and other security concerns to an already-obvious "SDK", Apple has bungled the developer relations for the iPhone. Nothing more, and nothing less. As a consumer, I'm still intrigued by the device. As a developer, I'm not terribly pleased with how things have gone.

Managability speculates on how Ajax will effect Google's mobile strategy:

...What about Google's mobile strategy? My original intuition was that they would move in the direction of J2ME. However, with the iPhone and the likelyhood that it'll accelerate inovation in the handset market, it is now not a remote possibility that javascript innovation on a mobile phone may outpace J2ME innovation. If this happens, then it's a toss up between J2ME and Javascript. Adding fuel to this possibility is the fact that Nokia's Web Browser software is also based on the same core as Safari...

Embracing this resurgence in mobile web development Opera has released a beta of Opera Mini 4. The browser runs on a wide variety of phones. It includes Javascript and CSS support as well as an iPhone like zoom in feature.

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Community comments

  • diamond in the rough

    by James Vastbinder,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I'm not sure that locking the phone/ROM down is a bad thing for the iPhone. A few points:

    - It is a consumer oriented device. If it were targeted at Blackberry users or PPC Phone users it would be different.
    - Carriers don't like to have end-users adding unknown/untested programs to what they perceive as "their device" (at least in the US).
    - The only killer app on any phone device so far is email.
    - The perceived next group of killer apps is gaming - but the iPhone is an Ipod+Phone not a gaming device.
    - I know I wish my phone worked everywhere, alleviating all holes in the current carrier wireless network would be Shangri-La for me.

  • Not Enterprise Ready

    by Scott Turner,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I seriously doubt the device will have "Full PDF support" as the desktop Mac OS X doesn't provide "Full PDF support".

    Using embedded ECMA Script to protect access to sensitive information distributed in PDF files is increasing in popularity with Fortune 500 companies. Desktop Mac OS X does not support embedded ECMA Script in PDF documents and thus can not be used to view them. I predict this restriction will apply to the iPhone as well.

    I'm also curious to see if the device can be used to participate in a workflow managed by Adobe's Work Flow Server system, which depends upon being able to fill in and forward fillable forms in PDF documents.

    Another feature I suspect is missing is support for printing, other wise I think Steve would have demonstrated it. I seriously doubt anyone can use Web 2.0 to allow you to employ the iPhone's bluetooth/WiFi to access a local printer, like say at Kinko's, to print out a contract draft or spread sheet delivered to the iPhone via email.

  • Bug in BLOG ware

    by Scott Turner,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Shouldn't that say "2 comments" up above instead of "2 comment"?

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