Jun 01

I will lay off of Android WebView….. and instead hit Google Maps!

Tech with tags: No Comments »

It is easy to make fun of the Android WebView. Ben and I had a slide on that in our talk yesterday. Painful, but easy. It’s almost as though the Android wing of Google doesn’t want the Web to be a great platform :/

We have a big fight for maps and location going on too, and next week will give us more information. iOS 6 is expected to showcase some amazing home grown (via 3 acquisitions) maps, and Google is trying to jump in and show that they have some life too ;).

The cynic in you may understand that the Android platform would be wise to make Google Maps amazing and easy to work with (their mapping, driving, and local functionality is fantastic!) but maybe have it be harder to work with other foundations.

If I owned a platform and NOT a mapping property, I would create interfaces so the developer would loosely talk to the system, and they would have a way to get a handle to the lower level to do fancy things that a particular provider had. An API / SPI model.

What do we have with Android today?

“To create a Google Map, you must extend MapActivity and implement a MapView in the layout.”

Wait, a MapActivity? Not just a view/component that you can pop in?

“Only one MapActivity is supported per process. Multiple MapActivities running simultaneously are likely to interfere in unexpected and undesired ways.”

If you wanted to use another mapping platform you can of course. OSMDroid is one example. They even have a wrapper so you could plug and play on the MapView layer, but note that you still live within the MapActivity bounds.

This becomes an issue if you want to ship on a device that may be Android but isn’t certified with Google goodness. A platform such as the Kindle Fire for example, where you don’t have access to the Google APIs. Now you have the pain of having separate builds.

I compare this to our mWeb codebase where we can flip a bit and suddenly the maps change between Google or Bing.

With WWDC and Google I/O coming up soon and soon-ish, I can’t wait to see these things go away :)

What headline would you most like to see? I wouldn’t mind some of:

  • “Android SDK updated with ChromeWebView that enables amazing WebView support!”
  • “iOS 6 delivers fantastic Siri and Gesture SDK”

But hell, I wouldn’t mind the small things…. “In mobile safari if you use native scrolling you can still tap the top menu bar and scroll to the top”, “iOS 6 auto-updates apps and doesn’t download unused assets. Finally.” etc.

Nov 05

Android: The GPhone is a Robot, and it isn’t a phone

Google, Mobile, Open Source, Tech with tags: , , , , No Comments »

One of the fascinating effects of working for a company that so many love to keep a look on is that you get to be on the inside watching the thoughts of “analysts”, press, and random folk.

Watching the speculation around the “GPhone” has been fun. I particularly loved it when people would come up with suggestions such as:

  • “The GPhone will read ads into your ear before each call”
  • “The GPhone will have scrolling ads through the screen”

Riiiiight. That would go down really well wouldn’t it! I love how some think that Google has to literally put ads everywhere to make it worthwhile. Google needs the web to keep expanding and to have more people on more devices on it. If that happens, Google will do well.


So there isn’t a GPhone, but instead there is the Open Handset Alliance, or Android (for a more fun name), which is an Apache licensed open source stack for mobile. No more walled garden. This is pretty huge. I can’t wait for the SDK to get out in the open on November 12th. I wish we could have gotten more information out there today to be honest. There are a bunch of usual suspects that people who read my blog also read that are a major part of this, so I am really happy for them that this is getting out in the open!

What I am looking forward to

The applications of course. Smart location-aware services will be fun, but what I really wish I could get is for a mobile digital wallet so I don’t have to use cash/credit cards. I want to use my phone for this just as they are able to do in parts of Europe and Asia. With an open platform that anyone can build applications for, I know it is going to happen.

Here is the fluffy look at Android, but for developers, please think about what apps you would like to see on a phone, and come back on November 12th for the real announcement that we care about… the SDK itself so you can see what you can do!