Note One : I would be interested in hearing and blogging about your company if you are developing Mobile Ajax applications and to brainstorm/elaborate the ideas in this blog. Please email me at ajit.jaokar at futuretext.com if you are doing something interesting
Note Two : In response to Patrick’s comment on my blog below (Update): Why focus on a specific technology like Ajax? Actually, I am not focussing on a specific technology like Ajax. I am however focussing on Open Standard Web based technologies that foster rich internet applications. To me, the Web is more than the Browser. For example, at least Widgets and RSS (in whatever incarnation it gets standardised by the W3C) are important. Thus, Ajax for me, is a way to provide RIA (Rich Internet Apps) using Open Standards but it is not the only way.
Note Three : An example of taking a programming only view can be seen at Tom Hume’s blog (I have a lot of respect for Tom’s views in general – but I am using this to illustrate my point) Tom quotes (not his own blog) : AJAX on the web is a hack, every developer knows it’s a hack. That ignores the bigger picture and looks at it from a purely coding perspective. In contrast, the blog he is quoting from by Mike Rowehl is more comprehensive but it also does not make any reference to the architecture. In general, the impression one (wrongly) gets is ‘Mobile Ajax’ is like ‘Using Ajax on a mobile browser’ and I am saying that: That’s not the case. You need a different architecture and we need to take a more strategic view. By the way, it is independent of where the application could be deployed(at Carriers or at service providers or even Corporate as I discuss below)
Today, I spoke at the Mobile User Experience conference organised by Osney Media
This was a gathering of folk interested in Mobile UI, more used to traditional Telco WAP/SMS applications than some of the Ajax driven Rich Internet Applications becoming increasingly common on the Web
This blog is in response to a question from the audience.
I promised that I would blog about this topic because I had a meeting to attend to afterwards and had to leave immediately after my session (sorry Ben/Vicki – feel guilty coming for lunch, attending my session and then off immediately – but I hear it was a good conference! Will see more of it next time round ..)
Anyway, .. In my talk I mentioned that Mobile Ajax was more than a pretty face.
This is very limited thinking .. because it excludes something else that is missing in a mainstream Mobile Ajax application.
That ‘something’ is ‘Cloud computing’
Cloud computing is a term recently popularised by Google CEO Eric Schmidt . This rather long Wired article gives a fascinating insight into this new computing paradigm of Cloud computing summarised by
The desktop is dead. Welcome to the Internet cloud, where massive facilities across the globe will store all the data you’ll ever use. George Gilder on the dawning of the petabyte age.
By more than a ‘pretty face’: i.e. much more than the UI.
Since Soonr is the best example of the use of Mobile Ajax, I shall discuss these ideas in context of Soonr
(As I said, if you are working on something interesting in this space, please email me). I have blogged about Soonr before - so I am not going to go into details of the application itself.
Conceptually, the Soonr application does something quite simple i.e. it allows access to files on your desktop.
By virtue of using Mobile Ajax, it already benefits from a good UI, open standards (non proprietary technology) and the benefits of browser based application deployment
However, if we look at only the ‘Mobile Ajax’ component, we are missing out far more because what makes the Soonr application interesting is: it combines the UI and data management capabilities of Ajax with Cloud computing with other technologies like transcoding
Some of these technologies (like transcoding) have been around for a long time (as I recollect, even as early as 2000/2001) for example this company but these applications never worked in practise. Today, we have the entire Cloud architecture and transcoding, image panning etc are merely components in the bigger picture
For example, a word document on the desktop could be converted to a jpeg and stored in the ‘cloud’. It could then be deployed optimally on the mobile device including features like zooming/panning etc.
The results are very powerful.
And that’s what I mean by ‘more than a pretty face’ i.e. if you look at it only from a programming perspective or from a UI perspective ignoring the architecture – then you are missing the whole point!
A secondary consequence of the above discussion is: Mobile Ajax could be well suited for corporate applications (security/permissions etc could also be managed at the middle tier)
Corporate mobile applications is where the action is at the moment and this scaleable(and relatively cost effective) architecture will benefit from the moves Google and others are making in this space (Will Google cloud displace Microsoft) .
These moves are all going for the hallowed Blackberry market.
In that context, the corporate incarnation of Mobile Ajax becomes very interesting because the pieces are there and they are cheaper and cost effective to deploy (because browser based/Open standards etc etc)
The paradigms used here are also actually not new. If you follow the architecture of BEA Tuxedo and more earlier IBM CICS (no I am not that old! I had to ask someone about CICS – but I have worked with Tuxedo at PeopleSoft (now Oracle)) – the ideas are very similar BUT with a ‘Web’ hat on
Some of these ideas above need more elaborating(for instance the corporate role of Mobile Ajax in light of recent moves by Motorola and Nokia) but you can see what I mean by ‘Mobile Ajax is not just a pretty face’ .. If you miss out the architecture, you are missing the whole point!
Image source: cecm . The site is in Brazilian/Spanish – so not quite 100% sure what it is about – but I know a pretty face when I see one