Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White

Blog Feed Post

HTML5 and the Future of PhoneGap and WebView+

By Peter Rogers, Principal Architect, Mobility, Cognizant

HTML5 is still one of the most discussed topics amongst us technical types.  The key challenge, however, has remained unanswered for a long time. How do you effectively wrap HTML5 for use in native mobile applications? Unfortunately I do not have a universal answer, but I do have a solution for Android.

Firstly, I recommend looking into the use of Vellamo in order to benchmark the performance of HTML5 on Android (http://www.quicinc.com/vellamo/).  Vellamo is designed to be an accurate, easy to use suite of system-level benchmarks for devices based on Android 2.3 forward. Vellamo began as a mobile web benchmarking tool that today has expanded to include two primary chapters: the HTML5 chapter evaluates mobile web browser performance; and the Metal Chapter measures the CPU subsystem performance of mobile processors.

I have my own custom architecture that extends RESS (Responsive Design + Server Side Components) called P-RESS (Performance RESS). The idea is to include performance based information inside the device family configurations. This means that an HTML5 based mobile client can query the RESS server to ask about the performance characteristics of its device family. This can be used to downgrade the graphical experience, for example removing a parallax scrolling background.

The big problem up until recently was that wrapping HTML5 into a WebView on Android meant that you had to use the default web browser, which unfortunately was not Chrome. Instead you ended up with the Android Stock Browser, which was a long way from Chrome. With Android 4.4 (KitKat) we now have the ability to use the Chrome browser through the WebView by default and this is very much welcome (https://developers.google.com/chrome/mobile/docs/webview/overview#what_version_of_chrome_is_it_based_on).

There are two downsides to this effort though:
  1. It only works on Android 4.4
  2. The WebView shipped does not have full feature parity with Chrome for Android (it is based on Chrome 30 as opposed to Chrome 33)
This means that the following features are not available:
  • WebGL (3D canvas)
  • WebRTC
  • WebAudio
  • Fullscreen API
  • Form validation
There have been a number of open source efforts to deliver a Chrome WebView that works across Android 4 and now it appears two companies have started to offer their own versions: Famo.us (http://www.infoworld.com/t/mobile-development/famous-were-building-better-phonegap-236267); and Ludei (http://support.ludei.com/hc/en-us/articles/201952993).

There is a subtle difference in marketing though: Famo.us claim to be building a better PhoneGap; whereas Ludei claim to be building something that is PhoneGap compatible. Both systems bundle the latest edition of the Blink engine (Chrome 33) with the App using a Cloud based build system. The two companies also have cool demos of WebGL running through a WebView on various Android 4 devices. This also means that when Chrome 34 arrives then it is presumed that could be bundled instead – depending on backward compatibility with earlier versions of Android 4.

Famo.us actually answer one of the key questions. Does each app have its own separately bundled edition of Chrome? Each time a Famo.us app needs a particular version of Chrome, that version is installed in such a way that other apps that need it can also use it – think shared libraries. At the moment the footprint for Chrome 33 is around 15-20MB but they predict the size will come down to 10MB. They can also have it not be part of the initial download of the app, but rather as an app upgrade.

It is unclear if Ludei will offer a similar shared library system at this time. One thing Ludei do mention is the increased portability and performance that WebView+ (as they call it) brings to the web environment. Ludei used to only offer support for games but just recently they added application support as well and this is when I really took notice of CocoonJS.

With one consistent HTML5 environment then it means the developers know the feature set to code towards. It becomes a sort of HTML5 Reference Implementation for Android. The minor downside is this only covers Android 4 and above. The major downside is this only covers Android. There is no way of bundling the latest version of Safari with an App on iOS and Windows 8 is even more problematic.

The other thing that Ludei and indeed Intel XDK offer is technology that cross-compiles HTML5 Canvas into OpenGL(ES) for Android or iOS. That means that if you are wrapping an HTML5 Canvas into a Native App then it makes far more sense to cross-compile it into Android or iOS native code. Ludei claims to have the fastest accelerated HTML5 Canvas, but Intel acquired similar technology from AppMobi.  When Web Components become more widely supported then it would appear to be the next candidate technology to be cross-compiled into native code.

Oracle offers ADF Mobile which combines a Java VM with an HTML5 presentation tier, the benefit being totally portable plug-in extensions. Unfortunately when I looked into the solution there was no backward compatibility with existing PhoneGap plug-ins. Ludei has been clever here and made sure that PhoneGap plug-ins are explicitly supported and I am sure Famo.us will follow.

I had a chat with the W3C recently and asked if there was likely to be any standardisation in the following spaces:
  1. Control over hardware acceleration
  2. Mixing native code and HTML5
  3. Pure HTML5 deployable Apps
The answer was that only the latter is being standardised and they are not seeing much uptake outside of Firefox OS. The manifest specification is being thoroughly updated through and this will see improvements to both HTML5 Cache Manifest and its future replacement called ServiceWorkers – all to be discussed in my next Blog (‘The future of HTML5’).  They also told me that the Windows 8 App Store allows you to host pure HTML5 applications.

This means that outside of standardisation, we are going to need to be looking at a new gold standard for HTML5 based Hybrid Apps as follows:
  • A Chrome 33/34 WebView for advanced performance, feature set and portability
  • An HTML5 Canvas to OpenGL(ES) conversion for Native Apps
  • PhoneGap backwardly compatible for existing plug-ins
These are Peter Roger's personal observations and opinions and don't necessarily represent his employers.  You can contact Peter Rogers directly at [email protected].

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict serves as the Senior Vice President, Solutions Strategy, at Regalix, a Silicon Valley based company, focused on bringing the best strategies, digital technologies, processes and people together to deliver improved customer experiences, journeys and success through the combination of intelligent solutions, analytics, automation and services. He is a popular writer, speaker and futurist, and in the past 8 years he has taught workshops for large enterprises and government agencies in 18 different countries. He has over 32 years of experience working with strategic enterprise IT solutions and business processes, and he is also a veteran executive working with both solution and services companies. He has written dozens of technology and strategy reports, over a thousand articles, interviewed hundreds of technology experts, and produced videos on the future of digital technologies and their impact on industries.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Silicon India has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Published in Silicon Valley, Silicon India magazine is the premiere platform for CIOs to discuss their innovative enterprise solutions and allows IT vendors to learn about new solutions that can help grow their business.
We are seeing a major migration of enterprises applications to the cloud. As cloud and business use of real time applications accelerate, legacy networks are no longer able to architecturally support cloud adoption and deliver the performance and security required by highly distributed enterprises. These outdated solutions have become more costly and complicated to implement, install, manage, and maintain.SD-WAN offers unlimited capabilities for accessing the benefits of the cloud and Internet. ...
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "IoT Now" was named media sponsor of CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO 2018 New York, which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City, NY. IoT Now explores the evolving opportunities and challenges facing CSPs, and it passes on some lessons learned from those who have taken the first steps in next-gen IoT services.
Cloud-enabled transformation has evolved from cost saving measure to business innovation strategy -- one that combines the cloud with cognitive capabilities to drive market disruption. Learn how you can achieve the insight and agility you need to gain a competitive advantage. Industry-acclaimed CTO and cloud expert, Shankar Kalyana presents. Only the most exceptional IBMers are appointed with the rare distinction of IBM Fellow, the highest technical honor in the company. Shankar has also receive...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICOHOLDER named "Media Sponsor" of Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO. ICOHOLDER gives detailed information and help the community to invest in the trusty projects. Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPO has opened its Call for Papers. The two-day event will present 20 top Blockchain experts. All speaking inquiries which covers the following information can be submitted by email to [email protected] Miami Blockchain Event by FinTechEXPOalso offers sp...
DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City and will bring together Cloud Computing, FinTech and Blockchain, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, AI, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location.