Monday, February 01, 2010

The world of apps. There's an app for that.

Warning, I am a Java fanboi (even if they sold out to Oracle)

A few years ago a platform was made called Java. It promised to allow people to write and compile their code once and run it everywhere. Of course real life set in an everyone realized that a VM just made software run slow. Basically you had two computers running in the space of one, the OS and the VM. However the idea was that a program could run anywhere and the idea was incredibly huge.

Microsoft tried their hand at Java and found out quickly that Sun meant business when it meant Java compliance. Microsoft would go on to make their own version of Java called .NET eventually. Most other players, IBM / Oracle / Apple / RedHat / Novell played fine with Sun and Java. However, without support from the MS desktop world, Java slowly migrated to business applications and middle-ware. Seeing who were the big players it's no surprise.

Then came along a thing called XML. Now the Internet was hot, but XML made it more flexible, more robust, and more friendlier. With XML, JavaScript, and Asynchronous HTTP you had AJAX. With XML, XSLT, and scripting you had blogs and walls. With XML and SOAP you had web APIs. For the first time the web was becoming a platform and not just a presentation layer. Add in the Open Source movement and MySOL / Linux / PHP / Apache and the web was becoming more and more about sites that provided services and tools for others.

Enter Google. Google has been the driver of the Web Platform, MS tried with ASP, then ASP.NET, and so forth, but all has not been about giving to people but instead just a platform of putting stuff on the web (I'm sorry I dropped my GeoCities account back in '97). MS has created an API to end making APIs. Google embraced the idea of taking an API an making an API out of it.

With the web becoming the cross platform application and presentation layers, Java slowly started grinding towards that goal, of making Java and web work together. Well, happily, no one was going to sit and wait for Sun Microsystems to get off their tush and start making stuff transpire. Struts was born, Spring was born, Tomcat was born, and so on... Sun was quickly loosing their driver's seat to Open Source projects that ran on Java. And to an extent Sun was begrudgingly accepting of the change.

Then the mobile generation started, and that brings me to my muse.

Apple pushed a web central platform with a native SDK as a last option for their phone platform.
Google is pushing a web central platform with a native SDK as a last option for their phone platform.
Microsoft is pushing their .NET platform, yadda yadda yadda, it does some web stuff too for their phonelaptopcomputerservertoasterXbox360sink platform.
Oh yeah and Palm is doing something web centric for their phone platform.

However, sans Palm, all have made big markets in their native application space. The HTML5 platform has been somewhat missing in all of their market software.

Wasn't the idea of Java to build apps that would run on the iPhone, Droid, Pre, and whatever monster MS puts out? Wasn't JavaFX to make apps so easy that people wouldn't think of native?

What went wrong? The what I call "70's mindset" has dominated the cell phone market. That hardware dictates software is the 70's mindset. Vendors do this because of two reason:

1. Control
2, Ease

Apple has a very tight grip over their API, in fact they take in very little input as to what the next SDK will have. Pretty much the same over at the Google camp. They have it open sourced, but very little is changed by outsiders as far as the standard API goes. Do I need to even mention the amount of control MS has over .NET?

Control makes Ease. Picture if you will how absolutely easy it would be to build a platform if you design the platform to run only your specs! That in is the problem with Java on the phone. There are (were, give it a couple of more years) many Java phones out in the world (unless you have Verizon). But Java has gotten away from Sun, quite literally now thanks to Oracle, and control is now anyone (and everyones) game.

HTML5 may prove to be the ultimate winner, but the road ahead is long. The W3C may have the final say but a lot of players, like Apple and Google, are in a big tug of war with the standard that HTML5 for mobile may be out of reach to be a real goal anytime soon.

Thus, we have hardware specific (er, platform) applications that could have used Java but chose not to. We must muse, why is HTML5 better than Java on mobile phones?


No comments: