Common AJAX platform seen for devices, desktops

Anticipating one Web emerging for both mobile and desktop access, dignitaries at a mobile AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) workshop last Friday also saw a common AJAX platform emerging across both mediums.

“That’s the trend. That’s what appears is happening,” said Jon Ferraiolo, manager of operations for OpenAjax Alliance and a Web architect at IBM. The alliance and the World Wide Web Consortium sponsored the event, which drew persons from such vendors as IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Sun. Microsoft offices in Mountain View, Calif., served as the location.

During the event’s wrap-up session, views generally reflected a shared vision that a common AJAX platform will provide the industry with a universal content and application platform, according to a document summarizing Friday’s event. This platform will be the Web on mobile, not on a separate mobile Web.

The platform arising is based on two open-source browser projects, WebKit and Mozilla, as well as on the Opera browser, Ferraiolo said. A role also is anticipated for the Windows Mobile technology.

“With WebKit, both Apple and Nokia ship WebKit browsers on their mobile phones,” said Ferraiolo. Motorola will follow suit, he said.

The need for AJAX interactivity on mobile devices has become especially critical as more and more people are beginning to access the Web via these devices rather than from desktop computers.

Participants also declared there will always be a difference between higher-end mobile devices and lower-end devices. In the short term, despite the rise of WebKit, there is likely to be more fragmentation on devices than on the desktop. Thusly, server-side content will continue to play a role.

In other conclusions, participants noted AJAX on mobile devices has its own special requirements and opportunities, such as limited screen size, keypad, CPU, memory, and bandwidth. Availability of GPS, camera, and messaging also were cited.

Critical areas to address included JavaScript access to device APIs, offline and disconnected operation, widgets, mashups, and security.

To access device capabilities, participants suggested a bridge from JavaScript to Java Platform, Micro Edition. Also, a model for the future was described in which the existing Web moves to mobile AJAX in two waves. In the first wave, desktop content is made to work on devices even if the browser interface is suboptimal. Device manufacturers need to include a full-featured browser.

With the second wave, content developers would adjust Web sites for a better user interface on mobile systems once they realize how large a percentage of users access their sites from these small-screen devices.

To pursue standards, attendees decided to work within existing standards activities rather than start new ones. Participants also sought a call for pragmatism in the form of experience-based recognition of the limitations of standards activities. It was articulated that many issues facing mobile AJAX ecosystems will find leadership in other means such as open source or vendor-driven plans.

Many attendees expressed a desire for a follow-up workshop.

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