Tag Archives | Web applications

Is Motorola Building a Web-Based OS? It Already Did.

From the original Droid to the brand-new Atrix, Motorola’s been all about Android over the last year and a half. But if Thomas Claburn’s anonymous source is correct, that may eventually change.

In a report for InformationWeek, Claburn writes that Motorola is building its own web-based operating system as a way to curb its reliance on Google’s Android. Motorola has reportedly hired mobile and web engineers away from Apple and Adobe, but its not clear whether this rumored OS is anywhere near completion.

Except, Motorola already has a web-based OS that’s complete and on the market right now. I’m talking about Webtop, the software that runs on the Motorola Atrix’s laptop dock and set-top dock. If it didn’t have a little window for running the phone’s Android apps, there’d be nothing Google about it.

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The Trouble With iPhone Web Apps

Readability made a bold statement earlier this month by releasing a web app alongside its native news reader for the iPhone. With Apple taking a 30 percent cut of subscription-based services offered through the iOS App Store, the web route allows Readibility to keep all the money for itself and content owners.

But here’s the problem: Web apps on iOS may be plagued with slower speeds and an occasional inability to run offline.

The Register brought these issues to light in a recent report on iOS web apps. The report mostly emphasized the slower speed of these HTML-based apps — reportedly, web apps saved to the iPhone’s home screen don’t use Apple’s brand-new Nitro JavasScript engine — but the bigger issue in my mind is the fragile state of offline support.

Before Apple released iOS 4.2 and iOS 4.3, you could run some web apps offline by installing them to the home screen. Now, the free web game Pie Guy doesn’t work without a connection, and accessing queued Readability articles on an airplane or in a subway tunnel is a shaky prospect.

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In Bits and Pieces, Mozilla Shows Off Web Apps Project

Mozilla is taking its first significant steps toward building an ecosystem of web apps.

The Firefox maker has announced the first developer release for the Mozilla Web Apps Project. Unlike Google’s Chrome Web Store, which launched in December with apps from big names like the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and NPR, Mozilla’s project is off to a modest start, with a series of disparate parts that will eventually coalesce into a full-blown platform.

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All Web Apps are “Glorified Bookmarks”

Whether you love or hate the idea of Google’s Chrome Web Store, you’ve got appreciate the discussion it’s provoked on the nature of web apps.

So far, a prevailing criticism is that many of the store’s offerings aren’t really web apps at all. They’re just glorified bookmarks to existing websites, at least according to some folks who’ve written user reviews. And if they’re just glorified bookmarks, why do they even exist?

We’ll get to that question shortly. But first, I want to challenge the term “glorified bookmark” as a pejorative. Because really, everything in the Chrome Web Store is nothing more than a link to another website. That’s the point.

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Chrome Web Apps Scream for Tablets, HTPCs

For the better part of this afternoon, I’ve been gorging on apps from the Chrome Web Store, which went live today. Yes, I’m easily lured by the prospect of hoarding bubbly little icons that appear on my web browser’s home screen.

And yet, I have very little interest in using many of these apps on my laptop, where productivity reigns. My most frequently-used tools and websites — Gmail, Google Reader, WordPress, Pixlr, Bit.ly and so on — were bookmarked long ago. Chances are the Chrome Web Store is only going to slow me down.

But for leisure, Chrome’s web apps are killer. Once this blog post is wrapped, I’m headed straight to my home theater PC to install a boatload of video apps, music players and games. (I’ll share my favorites before I go.) And the app craze is clearly clouding my better judgment, because if Google was selling a Chrome OS tablet right now, there’s a good chance I’d buy one on impulse.

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Way Cool: Sierra Adventure Games as iPad Web Apps

Classic point-and-click adventure games seem like a natural fit for tablets, and especially the iPad, but right now there aren’t many of them, besides The Secret of Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky and Myst.

Martin Kool, who runs the adventure gaming site Sarien.net, plans to change that, without Apple’s approval. TouchArcade’s Eli Hodapp reports that Kool will bring classic Sierra point-and-clicks like Space Quest to the iPad, using HTML and CSS. You’ll be able to add the games as icons on the home screen, no hacking or jailbreaking required. Kool is putting the final touches on a bunch of games, and plans to have them ready within a month.

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Coming Soon: Google Docs Editing on iPad, Android

The Google Docs experience has always been hobbled on mobile devices — you can’t create new documents, and editing is limited to spreadsheet cells — but that’s about to change, for Android and the iPad, at least.

Slipped into Google’s announcement of two-step Google Apps verification was news of Google Docs editing for Android phones and the iPad. Google Enterprise President Dave Girouard said the much-needed feature is coming in a few weeks.

Plenty of questions were unanswered. Why is the iPhone left out? What about Blackberry and WebOS, for that matter? Is this just an enterprise feature, or will Google Docs editing become available to everyone? And my favorite question: What the heck took so long?

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Gmail for iPad Becomes a Smooth Operator

Like it or not, technology has a vain side, one that strives to make things pretty as well as functional.

That’s the side Google is appealing to with Gmail for iPad’s new “stacked cards” interface. Now, when you select an e-mail from the left column, the message slides out into the right column with a smooth animation. Selecting more e-mails creates a pile of messages, like hastily stacked index cards (hence the name), which can be deleted, archived or moved in bulk.

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OpenAppMkt: The iPhone Gets a Web App Store

Plenty of websites and services use slick web apps in lieu of, or in addition to, native software for the iPhone App Store, but they had no storefront of their own until now.

OpenAppMkt is an HTML app store that launched today, with everything I’d expect to see in a mobile app market. It has a clean interface for searching or browsing by category, along with a website that’s equally polished. iPhone users can “install” OpenAppMkt by adding the website to their home screen, and individual apps are installed in the same way, creating icons on the home page as if they were native apps.

The app selection is small for now, with only a handful of apps in each category, but nicely curated. When installed, all of them run full screen, without Safari’s navigation bars. You’ll find a bunch of Google’s offerings, such as Google Voice and the excellent YouTube web app, plus some gems such as Glyphboard, which presents a chart of symbols and emoticons for copying and pasting.

Apple does have its own list of Web apps, which is much lengthier than OpenAppMkt, but it lacks user reviews and screenshot galleries, and there’s no iPhone-optimized storefront. It’s safe to assume that Apple is concentrating on the App Store and isn’t going to push web apps anytime soon.

The problem with OpenAppMkt has everything to do with the curent state of web apps. Most of them don’t compare with native apps, and a few selections in OpenAppMkt cheerfully remind you that a better experience awaits in the App Store. It’s true; native apps can handle high-end graphics, multitask, make better use of the accelerometer and allow easy billing through iTunes.

We may see HTML-based apps catch up some day, but right now the best ones are glorified web pages with killer interfaces. At least now there’s a reliable place to find them.