Monday, February 20th, 2012

The future of mobile app development?

This is a tad off topic for this blog, as it does not directly relate to Python, but rather web developers in general.

Do you recall WebOS and it's promise? It was suppose to make app development, much like developing any website. The only problem, is that it did not support server-side languages, and apps were downloaded to the device. Furthermore, the API to talk to the hardware was non-standard, and apps would only work on WebOS and not be cross-platform.

Mozilla aims to fix the wrongs made during the WebOS development cycle with their own mobile OS called Boot-to-Gecko, or B2G for short. The entire device runs on the web, and it will use JavaScript APIs which will be incorporated into the Desktop Firefox and standardized for other browsers to follow. They talk about a permissions system for these APIs which will prevent websites from using hardware which the user has not authorized it to use. The apps created for B2G, will be fully compatible with Desktop Firefox and hopefully other browsers in the future. Leading the same app on your phone to run perfectly on your PC with no modification.

This concept is similar to ChromeBook, which didn't take off that well. Since B2G is targeting always connected devices, such as smartphones, the same issues which prevented ChromeBooks from being a success, should not keep B2G down. If this succeeds and enough developer support is backing this effort, this will easily enable anybody with web development skills to deploy mobile apps, and easily port existing websites to be compatible with B2G, with a little added JavaScript.

I hope this is successful, as this will allow me to program apps for a smartphone using Python, and still be-able to take advantage of powerful technologies, like OpenGL graphics, sound, and persistent storage on the device. Python on the server-side that is, however Pyjamas may support B2G in future versions, if it becomes successful.

As a Python developer, are you interested in this type of technology and would this make you develop apps for smartphones?

There has indeed been strides in smartphones and Python, especially with Kivy being recently ported to Android.

Comment #1: Posted 9 years, 8 months ago by Chris Arndt

I was about to say, "hasn't he heard of Kivy for Android yet?" before I read your last sentence. With it you get all the things you mention. They say they're still working on sound but PyGame Subset for Android on which Kivy4A is based, already has sound support, so it shouldn't take long. Too bad you don't have access to the Android API like in SL4A with Kivy and PGS4A, which would make it a lot easier to implement application settings and and other user input and let the app gel much better with standard Android interface.

I've been playing around a lot with Pygame Subset for Android the past weeks and though it is way slower than PyGame even on my slowest laptop, it still gives usable speed on my cheap Android tablet. Someone should combine all these approaches and build an easy to use packager, that would be awesome!

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