Tech, Lock-in, and the Web: Using PhoneGap & HTML5 To Go Cross-Platform

Fil Maj, Adobe Systems

who's this?

Fil Maj

Master Exploder at Adobe Systems, eh

- Fil Maj / @filmaj


... soon

but first: brief history of technology

this is relevant, hang in there!


Tools that help us extend our perceived world

The best technology helps us create connections

Brief History

awesome shit that made us smarter

  • literacy, alphabet
  • maps, books
  • printing press
  • telegraph
  • telephone

incremental tech that changed the way societies, cultures and the human race progressed

Stepping it up a notch

taking it to the next level, 20th century style


An idea preceeded the computer...


  • Article published in 1945 by Dr. Vannevar Bush, "As We May Think"
  • Microfilm-based "knowledge desk"
  • Using "associative links" between content
... enlarged intimate supplement to one's memory.


ARPAnet, CSNET, et al, eventually lead to Tim-Berners Lee inventing the Web


  • Originally released in 1987
  • Stack of cards that can be linked together
  • Super easy to develop
  • Basic scripting support included (HyperTalk)
  • free
  • Essentially: sandboxed local web
It was not lost on Apple or its mainstream developers that the power HyperCard gave to people could cut into the sales of ordinary shrink wrapped products.

Today: Mobile Web

Today we are connected all the fkn time

  • our memory/knowledge extends beyond our mind
  • our perceptions extended with new sensors

arguably making us more intelligent beings...

... arguable ;)

The Web

pretty rad right?

Proprietary APIs

When we close a platform, we create vendor lock-in

creates a switching cost

tons of examples of this all around us

inkjet printer <=> ink

Connector Conspiracy

Exhibit 1

Exhibit 2

The Windows API is so broad, so deep, and so functional that most software vendors would be crazy not to use it. And it is so deeply embedded in the source code of many Windows apps that there is a huge switching cost to using a different OS instead.
- Aaron Contorer, internal Microsoft memo, Feb. 21, 1997

Exhibit 3

With early iPhone SDK, developers had to agree to an NDA that forbade [them] from discussing the content of the iPhone APIs. WTF!

Luckily, Apple abandoned this section of their TOU in Oct. 2008.

The Cure?

... not this. plz.

We Fight This With Openness

Web As A Platform

(Short) tangent back in time...

Remember Gopher?

Competed with the web

Attractive early on for smaller network resource use

University of Minnesota maintained implementation

Then UofM decided to start charging license fees for gopher

Where'd the Rodent Go?

The Open Web

Tim Berners-Lee, writer of the first HTTP and HTML specs, physicist working at CERN.

He wanted to connect scientists at CERN so they could share data.

So he invented the web.


Back to HTML5 in the Real World

Native apps are kicking web's ass

APIs like accelerometer, compass, contacts, etc.

BUT! Geo is here. Accelerometer is next. W3C DAP group leading the way.

Fucking Finally: PhoneGap

MIT license, as open as it gets!

Obtained by Adobe in November 2011

I work full-time on open source software. I'm lucky.

Apache Cordova

PhoneGap -> Cordova as Chrome -> WebKit

Write Apps With Web Tech

Deploy To Six Platforms

Augment The Web With Native APIs

Get at those sensors!

Full API docs available at

Example: Accelerometer

function onSuccess(acceleration) {
console.log('Acceleration X: ' + acceleration.x + '\n' +
    'Acceleration Y: ' + acceleration.y + '\n' +
    'Acceleration Z: ' + acceleration.z + '\n' +
    'Timestamp: '      + acceleration.timestamp + '\n');

function onError(e) {
console.log('Error! ' + e.message);

var options = {frequency:100}; // get updates every 100 ms

navigator.accelerometer.watchAcceleration(onSuccess, onError, options);

Deploy To App Stores

PhoneGap/Cordova "wraps" your web assets into a native binary.

Not A Silver Bullet

Will not wash your dishes.

Write Once, Debug Everywhere

HyperCard didn't ship a debugger until 2.0!

Hardcore 3D Shit

Web tech is probably not the best choice for this problem.

But! BlackBerry 6+ supports WebGL...

PhoneGap API Finite

Demo Time?

Tack, eh @filmaj