I wanted to call this piece Life, the Universe and Everything. If you’re an avid sci-fi reader, or you’ve at least read Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then those words might mean something to you, but this argument is not about the book, or Douglas Adams. Allow me to explain.
When the iPhone was announced, Apple had created another closed ecosystem that runs on just one processor architecture. This was a critical decision from an engineering and design standpoint that allowed for two things. It allowed for Apple to have over-arching control of its platform and 2) permits extreme performance from 3rd-party applications. While I don’t condone closed ecosystems and platform dependence, having application code (Objective-C) built specifically for a device is a boon for mobile performance and most certainly attributes to the success of Apple’s iPhone. That’s not to say that we are doing it wrong, however. Java has been an obvious choice for mobile and has dominated in this space for over 10 years. The range of hardware configurations has narrowed somewhat in that time, but it’s still varied enough that Java continues to dominate in this space. We all need to be able to play Angry Birds, right?
Java and the Dalvik machine exists on Android because of the Market. In my opinion, it’s perfectly reasonable for a developer to produce applications with C++ or some Objective-C variant, or whatever. What’s to stop them from making multiple builds for different CPU’s and then uploading them all to the Android Market while having a mechanism within Market to detect your configuration and install the proper build? Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. Java is the real Android enabler, and for better or for worse, it works. In this respect, Java is the Universe, and that’s life as we know it.
Tizen is a grab-bag of other projects that have been previously side-lined. These projects include;
MeeGo: A dashboard like, Linux OS not completely unlike Chumby in its presentation, debuted last year in a compelling app-based configuration on the Nokia N9. Born from Moblin (Mobile Linux), this project was parked by the already legendary deal/failure between Microsoft and Nokia to release high-end, attractive Windows Phone 7 branded hardware.
Maemo: It is itself a grab-bag of Debian, bits and pieces of Gnome and many other open-source projects. Before the iPad and Android’s aggressive march into the tablet market, Maemo was very appealing—though the Nokia hardware that powered it was outrageous priced and the lack of subsidized availability limited its appeal to the masses.
Currently, Tizen is an effort of the Linux Foundation, LiMo Foundation, Intel and Samsung. The latter of which will be merging its Bada efforts into the project, further unifying it into something that free- software advocates should consider, among other projects such as Web OS. Tizen’s target is mobile, and though the interface lacks originality and creeps dangerously into Gingerbread territory in the most generic possible way, there is one place that the project really shines.
I predict that HTML 5 will be the great liberator of this decade. Robust enough to make real applications with, it’s hard for me to imagine Java’s relevance moving forward. Angry Birds, no matter how tired some us are of this never-ending phenomenon, is a perfect example of the power and flexibility of this emerging web standard. Currently, Rovio is forced to build a version in Xcode for the iPhone/iPad, tasked with building a Java version, maybe with Eclipse, all in addition to its existing HTML 5 efforts for Facebook, Google+ and the web at large. Since they are still making money hand-over-fist, I’m sure they are perfectly content with maintaining all of these versions, but it is all wasted effort.
The proliferation of HTML 5 is absolutely unavoidable. It’s already poised to put the final nail the Adobe Flash’s coffin, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Silverlight. Its versatility—as far as what can be made– is only matched by traditional programming languages whose programs are bound to the CPUs they were built for. Tizen—Intel actually—promotes HTML 5 as its tool of choice for building applications.
Life, the Universe and Everything
That moment when you pick up your Galaxy Nexus and open up Angry Birds in a web-browser and get the exact same experience as what you downloaded from the Android Market, it will only be a matter of time. Technologies like HTML 5 have the distinct ability to ambiguate mobile devices much in the same way HTML as a whole has ambiguated desktops and laptops. Chrome OS is a perfect example of the needlessness of a Mac/Win/Lin machine when the real need is just to get to facebook.
As HTML 5 starts to become the foundation of everything, it’s us, the user who wins. Those of us that comprise the %1 of desktops users using Linux now have the same choice on our mobiles. Many of us use Android, but there will no longer be a reason to be bound to it. We can choose to use Android, Tizen, iOS, WebOS, or whatever we want. We will have the same level of access to productivity apps, games and entertainment, as anyone else.
HTML 5 will be the technology that completely eliminates the need for an ‘ecosystem’. It’s an enabler of freedom.
From a technology standpoint, HTML 5 is life, the Universe and Everything.