Wednesday 4 November 2009

O2 Litmus: Palm Pre Mobile Web Developer Event

Tonight was a really impressive event organised by O2 Litmus. The two guys from Palm did a very good job presenting WebOS and Palm’s plans for the future. The food and drink was excellent. And they even gave us a Palm Pre each to take home! Certainly makes me want to at least try out making an app.

As usual, here’s my notes for the evening in a vaguely coherent manner…

  • webkit appearing all over the place on mobile
  • as well as opera (there were a couple of people from Opera at the event)
  • HTML 5 is providing standardisation for web applications in the same way that HTML provided standardisation for web documents
  • web applications are escaping the browser:
  • why not flash, javafx or silverlight?
  • because:
  • “When you improve things by an order of magnitude, you haven't made something better — you've made something new” — Stephen Levy
  • Palm Pre uses V8 javascript engine, just like Chrome
  • WebWorkers provide background threads
    • came from Gears worker pool
    • invented to stop database access causing hangs
  • Chrome uses WebWorkers for extensions
  • Firefox hasn’t implemented SQLite, but may go for a JSON-based database, like CouchDB
  • CSS Transforms
  • “it’s not javascript people don’t like, it’s dealing with cross-browser issues”
    • anyone mention IE…?
  • “it’s not just going to be developing apps for Palm — it’s making things for the web”

some detail

  • Mojo Framework is open-source
  • Mojo uses prototype.js at the moment, but will be made nicer to use other alternatives later
  • dashboard items and popups are just DOM items
  • want to integrate apps into system — background apps


  • web browser provides normal web sandbox
  • applications get access to native services
  • certain APIs still need permissions granted
    • e.g. location
    • can get app to ask when API is used
  • would like to push local APIs to browser windows
  • apps are packaged and signed
    • working with developers to encrypt apps in different ways
    • would anticipate that developers would be able to opt-in to encrypt their app
    • protect against people uploading a copy of an app as their own
    • balanced against the benefit of view source on the web

app store

  • Palm would like a “web app store” to emerge
  • Palm doesn’t feel that it’s the right company to make this move
  • creating a Palm catalogue & developer program for mid-December
    • charging $50 for each app to be in the catalogue — as a spam filter
    • money goes to funding developing programme & catalogue service
    • interested in finding other “friction points”
  • can get an immediate acceptance into the web distribution of the Palm app catalogue
    • submit and get a URL straight away
    • can email/tweet other people
    • no review process
  • opening up the backend too — feeds of all the apps and charts
  • would like digg-style rating
  • a developer can choose to make an app available for specific markets
  • also aiming to provide metrics for developers, so they can see how users are choosing or not choosing their apps
  • payment:
    • right now they have PayPal
    • would like to support several options
    • want to decrease the friction

BONDI & others

  • palm works with them
  • including W3C widgets & geo
  • Palm way will be there originally, but will be switched out when
  • order depending on developer requests
  • native-accelerated CSS transforms are higher at the moment
  • “Palm pays us, but they didn’t pay us enough to sell out”

supporting open source

  • waiving cost for anyone working open source
  • $99 for developer


  • O2 Litmus will be recruiting Palm Pre users for testing availability
  • DeviceAnywhere will feature Palm Pre in O2 VDL


  • they already use Jira and want to open it something to the public soon
  • homebrew community will patch things before Palm do it themselves
  • there are differing viewpoints internally…

personal usage

  • like multi-tasking
  • don’t like UI latency
    • hardware is roughly equivalent to the iPhone 3GS
    • don’t have access to hardware GPU — so CSS Transforms is really important
    • will happen with a over-the-air software upgrade

multiple devices

  • Palm Pixi seems a lot nicer
  • different screen size (80 pixels shorter)
  • should design liquid layouts…
  • the future is devices in all kinds of form factors


  • there are tools for Flash — what about tools for WebGL, etc?
  • mozilla is making tools
  • e.g. Atlas from 280North
  • this week there may be something new released…
  • should flash be a native platform for apps on Palm Pre?
    • nearly supported for web pages — Adobe has shown something working already

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Mobile Device Stats

I've been looking at various mobile statistics recently and thought I'd put up a quick post on my findings so far.

I started with some work at Kizoom, analysing the traffic we see on our UK Transport services. This then led to my session at BarCampLondon7, in which I presented the session counts for mobile browsers from a sample month (September) in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I've published these results in a DabbleDB database at for your slicing and dicing enjoyment.

I was inspired by Bryan Rieger's article on mobiforge, where he tells developers to "Expect and manage diversity" and links to some great graphs from the deviceatlas data explorer showing how screen sizes differ across device release dates. However, fantastic though deviceatlas is, it doesn't capture the actual usage of the devices on mobile sites -- it just counts one for each device, no matter whether it's a popular Nokia or an almost unused Sagem.

I've tried to rectify this lack of popularity data by publishing the Kizoom sample data. It's not perfect and each year isn't quite the same sample (we've released and withdrawn various services across the time range), but it's a start. I've even tried putting the same data into IBM's manyeyes to get some alternate visualisations.

Some of the trends that I've been seeing coming out of this data are not surprising: the iPhone punches way above its weight in terms of mobile traffic, and screen sizes are getting bigger as the years go on. One trend that is slightly unexpected is the growing popularity of BlackBerry devices over the last few years -- at least it's surprising to me quite how popular they've become (showing third in the brand popularity for 2009 behind Nokia and SonyEricsson, and ahead of Samsung and Apple).

There's been some other data published recently that seems to support the same trends. The September AdMob metrics have recently been released and this month they're highlighting the change in devices from 2007 to 2009 (a popular theme!). Their stats show that the iPhone and iPod Touch are number one and two in the UK -- probably due to in-app ads supplementing the web usage, especially when considering that the HTC Android phones (not nearly as popular a phone as the Nokia N95) also manage slots in the top 10.

Ian Homer of Bemoko pointed out the StatCounter Global Stats site, which has some very nice stats and pretty graphs to go with them. This site provides sliceable worldwide stats from 3 million websites (240 million hits in UK). Since the sites may not be mobile specific, I would expect mobile devices used to browse "the full web" would take precedence over smaller, more phone-focussed devices.

Here's an example: Top 9 Mobile Browsers in Europe 2008/09

As expected, the iPhone and iPod Touch (or "iTouch") gets the majority of the traffic, with Nokia coming a strong second. NetFront is the browser used by SonyEricsson smartphones (and others) so comes fairly high in the rankings (it seems that StatCounter may have changed how they categorise SonyEricsson browsers in August 2009, as NetFront swaps with SonyEricsson -- this is even more apparent in their Mobile OS stats for the same region).

Once more, BlackBerry devices are making a strong showing in recent months, a gain which shows even stronger when the stats are shown just for the UK.