Feb 21

Programming The Mobile Web-Review

All in all an impressive resource. Useful addition to the bookshelf for the experienced programmer wanting to get up to speed on the Mobile Web.

Programming the Mobile Web Isbn:978-0-596-80778-8 © 2010 Maximiliano Firtman, Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc., 1005 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopal, CA. 95472 Author: Maximiliano Firtman Cover Price Us $49.99 487 pages.

Programming The Mobile Web

I bought this book a few months ago as part of getting up to speed for programming some mobile Web applications. It is probably the most complete reference available today covering all mobile platforms. For each platform, there are more comprehensive single platform books. The challenge that most interests me is to build cross-platform applications. While there are some tool sets available that purport to allow write once run on any platform, it is my impression that they are still somewhat primitive and each tool set presents its own strengths and weaknesses.

A rapidly emerging concept is to program applications in pure HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript.And serve them as cache-able web apps.  This book covers this, although not as clearly as I would hope. For instance as I was doing an app I got it working fine on Android and then i-Phone (with some difficulty, due to a few features that i-Phone does not implement) but so far I can't figure out how to do anything with Blackberry or if I should be able to. I would have appreciated it if the book had provided more guidance in this area. This sort of information is very hard to come by or develop, so the lack is understandable.

This book however chooses to explore all the platforms and manufacturer specific approaches. It may be the only book to attempt that very hard task. The speed with which the mobile platforms have evolved makes any print book almost hopelessly out of date upon publication. Indeed due to this fact the book only has two paragraph references to the new Windows mobile phone system.

The book has several useful chapters on mobile phone system evolution, which helps to understand where each operating environment resides and how it got there. This in turn is quite useful in understanding how likely your programming product can be implemented across specific platforms.

The book does a good job of explaining how designing for smaller screen sizes is really different. It also has a good section on design patterns to support the smaller screen sizes.

Where the book falls somewhat for me is in the lack of  practical full examples. According to the author this is somewhat by design. I found it quite disturbing however. The various features are well explored but, implementation is really up to the reader to figure out. This can be quite exasperating. This is so because the various platforms each have pretty unique capabilities and restrictions and enhancements. Finding common implementation patterns that will work across a large section of platforms is my goal and I was left somewhat disappointed.

A better solution in my mind, and I have implemented one so far is to use pure HTML5 CSS3 and Javascript and for me at least only worry about Apple and Android browser capabilities. The book seems to support this notion. It also spends a lot of resource to specify the different implementation capabilities of most everything else on the market as well. I found that quite distracting, On the other hand if I need to find an answer for the lesser known platforms the book will be a good resource.

All in all an impressive resource. Useful addition to the bookshelf for the experienced programmer wanting to get up to speed on the Mobile Web.

Tags: Mobile, Review, Web

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