There has been a lot of news that will interest mobile website owners. Here is a roundup of what has happened recently and what is to come.
Mobile Website Development News: WWDC
Last week Apple revealed a new range of products at the WWDC. Being a hardware company at heart, the conference began with news of new MacBooks complete with a pro version that includes a retina display. As we covered last week, making websites get the most out of a retina-capable device is going to need some work. If you are a die-hard Apple user than this device is really up your alley.
- Safari updates:
- iCloud Tabs – Remotely sync the websites you are on across devices and OS X.
- Photo/Video uploads – You can now upload photos and video from the camera roll. No word on generic file upload support. This functionality will allow for more powerful mobile website / web-apps.
- Fullscreen mode – The ability to use the entire screen, free from buttons, when in landscape mode.
- Offline Reading List – The ability to cache a full website for offline reading.
- Siri improvements -Siri will now be able to open apps, pull up sport scores, and list movies.
- New Maps – Apple is very proud of the fact that they have dropped support for Google Maps. They are now running their own native map feature complete with turn-by-turn navigation. Functionally it looks like decent mapping software, but some are concerned with the map data’s quality.
- Facebook integration – The calendar app will display Facebook data such as events and your friends’ birthday. It will allow you to post photos from the photo app. It will also allow you to post your locations from the map app.
On Monday Microsoft formally announced their new tablet series named Microsoft Surface. One of the most important things to know about the Surface series is that they will run the upcoming Windows 8 operating system. It will not run the same operating system as Windows Phone. Microsoft has taken the philosophy that a tablet can become a full PC by simply adding a keyboard. It is not a tailored system for mobile devices like Apple’s iPad running iOS. This philosophical difference may change the design and development of a mobile website. As a developer I can tell you that debugging tools on Windows are pretty great, but debugging a mobile app remotely is a pain. Only Chrome on Android has made this easy in my experience. The Windows debugging tools will come to Windows 8. Having a Windows 8 device with touch support and all of my debugging tools would make supporting Microsoft easier when building a mobile website.
The first surface tablets will come in two flavors. The basic version simply called Surface that will run on ARM chipsets (similar to iOS and Android devices) running Windows RT (basically a reconfigured version of Windows 8). The advanced version is called Surface Pro and runs on Intel chipsets like traditional Windows-based devices. As you may have guessed, the Pro version is a slightly more powerful containing a stronger battery and a higher resolution. The Surface will run at 1366×768, while the Pro will run at 1920×1080. This is a far cry from the third generation iPad’s 2048×1536.
Hardware wise, the tablet will have a built-in kickstand to hold up the device. Microsoft will offer two types of covers that double as keyboards and contain built-in touchpads – the Type Cover and the Touch Cover. The Touch Cover is 3 mm thin with a touch keyboard. The Type cover is slightly thicker with a tactile keyboard (more in line with a traditional keyboard). The Surface series will also be compatible with a magnetized stylus that uses digital ink that reads at 600 DPI.
Mobile Website Development News: Windows Phone 8
Yesterday Microsoft announced the future of Windows Phone with Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 8 brings significant improvements such as multiple display resolutions, NFC support, turn-by-turn directions, and removable microSD cards. On the business end it will include secure-boot, encryption, device management, and Office apps. The improvements to display resolution mean that not a single app running on Windows Phone 7.5 will need updating to run in version 8. Unfortunately, not a single existing device on the market today, including the popular and well-received Lumia 900, will receive an update to version 8. There has been no word on enhancements to the browser. How exactly this will affect your mobile website is not known at this time.
Mobile Website Development News: Mozilla Junior
Earlier this week Mozilla announced an experimental build of Mozilla Junior for the iPad. Mozilla’s product design team feels that the Safari browser is a poor example of what is possible with a mobile device. In portrait mode the browser will remove most of the user interface, save two buttons for back and forth. This will give you more screen real estate for a website. It also recognizes that many iPads owners share the device between family members so it has built-in profile management. Mozilla Junior is also Mozilla’s first build of a browser-based on WebKit. Traditionally Mozilla uses their Gecko rendering engine, but Apple’s restrictive policies prevent another rendering engine from being ported to their devices.
It is not yet known whether the Mozilla Junior experiment will continue. It will need further development and further user feedback before a decision is formally announced.
Mobile Website Development News: Google Nexus Tablet
Next week Google will unveil its first Nexus tablet. The Nexus tablet named Nexus 7 and is now shipping. It is on par with the Kindle Fire in the screen size and price, with no official word on the resolution (though the rumor has it at 1280×768). It will come with a front facing camera and will come pre-loaded with Google Chrome.
As with the Nexus phones, the Nexus tablet is the pure Google experience with Android, free from any of the custom features that other vendors add-in. The Google Chrome pre-load indicates that this will be the upcoming Android 4.1 operating system. This would greatly enhance the quality and experience of mobile website viewing and will simply development.
That is all of the significant mobile website development news that I have heard recently. Did I miss something? Please leave a comment and let us know.