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AppleInsider | Flash, HTML5 comparison finds neither has performance advantage March 11, 2010

Posted by hruf in Internet & Communities, Multimedia.
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A comparison of streaming video via the Adobe Flash and HTML5 formats with numerous different browsers on both Mac and Windows produced wildly different results based on the operating system and browser, making neither a clear winner.

The test, from Streaming Learning Center, was conducted in response to recent comments alleged to have been said by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, in which he reportedly called Flash a “CPU hog.” While the test found that HTML5 is significantly more efficient than Flash on the Mac when running the Safari Web browser, those same advantages do not exist on other Mac browsers, or in Windows.

“It’s inaccurate to conclude that Flash is inherently inefficient,” author Jan Ozer wrote. “Rather, Flash is efficient on platforms where it can access hardware acceleration and less efficient where it can’t. With Flash Player 10.1, Flash has the opportunity for a true leap in video playback performance on all platforms that enable hardware acceleration.”

The report noted that Apple has not enabled the hooks to allow GPU-based acceleration for H.264 video decoding. Anand Lai Shimpi, founder of AnandTech, asserted “it’s up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.”

Adobe’s update to Flash 10.1 on the Mac improved CPU efficiency within Safari by 5 percent, but the Web format still trails far behind HTML5 due to hardware acceleration. With Google Chrome, neither were particularly efficient, and Firefox saw slightly better performance than Chrome.

Flash test 1

On Windows, Apple’s Safari browser doesn’t play HTML 5 content. But the Google Chrome browser in Windows played Flash 10.1 content with 58 percent more efficiency than HTML5.

HTML5 is not natively supported in Firefox or Internet Explorer, but the update from Flash 10 to Flash 10.1 improved CPU performance for the browsers by 73 percent and 35 percent, respectively. Flash 10.1 in Windows offers added hardware acceleration.

“When it comes to efficient video playback, the ability to access hardware acceleration is the single most important factor in the overall CPU load,” Streaming Learning Center noted. “On Windows, where Flash can access hardware acceleration, the CPU requirements drop to negligible levels.

“It seems reasonable to assume that if the Flash Player could access GPU-based hardware acceleration on the Mac (or iPod/iPhone/iPad), the difference between the CPU required for HTML5 playback and Flash playback would be very much narrowed, if not eliminated.”

Flash test 2

Google added support for the most popular video destination on the Internet, YouTube, in January. The beta opt-in program is available only for browsers that support both HTML5 and H.264 video encoding.

Scrutiny over Flash has grown in recent months since Apple introduced its multimedia iPad device, which does not support the Web format from Adobe. Apple, instead, has placed its support behind HTML5.

For more on why Apple isn’t likely to add support for Flash in the iPhone OS, read AppleInsider’s three-part Flash Wars series.

via AppleInsider | Flash, HTML5 comparison finds neither has performance advantage.

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Will the Mobile Web Kill Off the App Store? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com December 19, 2009

Posted by pannet in Internet & Communities, Mobile & Gadgets.
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The debate over the longevity of native software continues. Mozilla, creator of Firefox, claims that its new browser for smartphones will contribute to the death of smartphone app stores.

Scheduled to begin appearing on devices at the end of this year, the Firefox mobile browser, code-named Fennec, will be packed with features to make it the closest thing yet to a real, desktop-class browser. (Wired.com’s Mike Calore has a detailed look at Fennec.) Mozilla claims it will have the fastest JavaScript engine of any mobile browser, allowing developers to produce HTML- and JavaScript-coded apps for Fennec rather than for multiple smartphone platforms, such as iPhone OS, Google Android or Windows Mobile.

“In the interim period, apps will be very successful,” said Jay Sullivan, vice president of Mozilla’s mobile division, in an interview with PC Pro. “Over time, the web will win because it always does.”

Web proponents such as Mozilla and Google dream that internet standards will enable any app to run on any device, just as Java proponents touted a “write once, run anywhere” vision in the 1990s. Similarly, Adobe’s Flash emerged as a cross-platform environment for creating animations, games and apps for the web. But many consumers and developers have complained that Java and Flash exhibit bugs, performance problems and security vulnerabilities, among other issues. And Java’s promises of universality didn’t quite work out, because different implementations of the Java virtual machine (not to mention wildly varying hardware capabilities) mean that, even today, Java coders need to rework their apps for each target device.

But web proponents maintain that the wide acceptance of next-generation internet standards, particularly HTML5, will win out where Java failed.

It’s a tempting vision. Currently, when deciding whether to buy a Mac or a PC, an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, or an iPhone or a Droid, you need to consider which applications you’ll be able to run on each one. If programmers head in the direction of the web, then ideally you’ll be able to gain access to any application regardless of the computer or smartphone you own.

Google is attempting to lead the web movement. The search giant is pushing its web-only regime with Chrome OS, its browser-based operating system for netbooks that will run only web applications. Also, in July, Google’s engineering vice president and developer evangelist Vic Gundotra said in a conference that mobile app stores have no future.

“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning,” Gundotra was quoted in a Financial Times report. “We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”

But iPhone developers and analysts polled in July by Wired.com explained the problems with current web technologies, and some highlighted the merits of native-app architecture.

Interpet analyst Michael Gartenberg noted that many iPhone apps are a combination of native and web technologies, because many apps download or share data through the internet. He said it’s beneficial for the apps to be native, because they’re programmed to take full advantage of the iPhone’s hardware.

“It’s odd that Google feels the need to position as one versus the other,” Gartenberg said in July. “That’s last century thinking…. It’s not about web applications or desktop applications but integrating the cloud into these applications that are on both my phone and the PC. Ultimately, it’s about offering the best of both worlds to create the best experience for consumers — not forcing them to choose one or the other.”

With Firefox’s mobile browser rolling out soon, we have yet to see how consumers and developers react to Mozilla’s attempt to spark a web-only exodus.

via Will the Mobile Web Kill Off the App Store? | Gadget Lab | Wired.com.

iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5? December 16, 2009

Posted by hruf in Mobile & Gadgets, Programming.
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Lots of iPhone application developers are frustrated with the process to get new apps into your hands. It takes about three weeks lately for an app to get approved and into the iTunes store.

Lately I’ve noticed that some developers are avoiding building apps and, instead, are building custom web pages that are designed specifically for the iPhone. I’m not the only one, Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at ReadWriteWeb is seeing the same trend and yesterday featured several services that are building iPhone web experiences but not apps.

Examples you might be already using are Twitter’s mobile site, or Techmeme’s mobile site.

But yesterday another one came along from Nextstop, which is a cool new app for sharing cool things to do near you (great for travelers to check out) and they, too, decided on HTML5 instead of doing an iPhone app. So, I visited them in their San Francisco offices and learned why they made the choices they did, got a demo of the new mobile site they built using HTML5, and also talked about what their view of what’s happening in the larger mobile industry is.

Some reasons Nextstop likes HTML5:

1. Rapid iteration. If they code a new feature tonight, you get it tonight. No waiting three weeks for you to get their latest.
2. It prepares their systems for building a native app. Why? Because apps can include a Safari browser instance inside, so all of this work is reusable, even if they do a native app.
3. It’s easier to build and debug because you don’t need to do a lot of specialized coding to make the native app work properly.
4. It fits into the greater web easier for users. In an iPhone app it can be jarring to take users out to a web browser, but if they already are in the browser they are used to going to other pages and back again using Safari’s navigation.

Anyway, if you want to learn more about the latest thinking of iPhone app developers, this is a good video to watch.

via iPhone developers abandoning app model for HTML5?.

Google halts development of Gears, makes room for HTML 5 December 2, 2009

Posted by andre in Internet & Communities.
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Well, we’ve known for a while that Google was throwing considerable weight behind HTML 5, and that one of the purposes of the markup language is to do away with plug-ins for Internet apps, so it makes sense that eventually Gears would go the way of the Dodo. But so soon? Linus Upson, the man in charge of both the Chrome browser and Chrome OS engineering teams, has announced that the company is done developing the software. “We are not driving forward in any meaningful way [on Gears],” the man said in an interview with PC Magazine. “We are continuing to maintain it, so that applications will continue to work; we don’t want to break anything out there.” If you listen to this guy, it sounds like this was the plan, all along: “When we started the Gears project, three years ago… we did it because we couldn’t get the browser vendors interested in building offline applications.” He then details the mind trick: Google ships Gears, and suddenly browser vendors are “very interested in adding capabilities to build offline applications,” paving the way for the capabilities in the next version of HTML. Clever, Google. In the same interview, Upson stated the company’s plans to move all its apps to standards-based HTML 5 APIs. Now that it’s convinced the world that it wants — nay, needs — rich Internet applications, we hope that the company will promise to use its powers of persuasion for good, and not for evil.

via Google halts development of Gears, makes room for HTML 5 — Engadget

Will HTML 5 Break Apple’s Stranglehold on Apps? August 16, 2009

Posted by pannet in Mobile & Gadgets, Programming.
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It’s no secret that the iPhone App Store is a walled garden. Mobile platform developers like Apple have several ways to control what can run on their devices: Prohibit plug-ins like Flash, cripple the Java they run, or simply limit the installation process. But HTML 5, the next big standard for the web, will dramatically reduce this control by creating a new generation of web sites that look and feel like they’re iPhone apps.

Limiting what can run on a phone requires some degree of collusion among the device maker Nokia, HTC, the phone operator T-Mobile, Canada’s Rogers, and the application store itself. Many other mobile device makers have policies that are similar to, though less obvious than, Apple’s: Android doesn’t support Flash but it’s coming, for example, and has a special application for YouTube videos; and some carriers block Skype, location functions and streaming TV. The problem becomes much more noticeable when one company, like Apple, is both a platform and a service provider and co-develops features like Visual Voicemail with a single carrier.

HTML 5 is poised to change this. It’s rich enough to do all kinds of things within a browser that once required dedicated applications or plug-ins. Available in Firefox 3.5, and soon many other browsers, it allows advanced graphics (to rival Flash), real-time two-way streaming (including binary data) and audio. Every new feature in browsers chips away at the walled nature of the App Store because it makes web sites behave more and more like dedicated iPhone applications.

So when Apple removes an application, the affected company can rebuild on a web site using HTML 5, and deliver similar functionality. Just look at what Google said it would do when Voice was pulled from the App Store. This is one reason why the search giant is a strong proponent of HTML 5: As browsers get more powerful, mobile platform developers lose their stranglehold on the application market.

Apple and others face a difficult choice. They can embrace HTML 5 on mobile browsers, and lose their ability to constrain what applications can do. Or they can cripple their browsers, controlling what runs on their devices but delivering a second-rate surfing experience.

To keep up with the resulting arms race, mobile devices will have to inspect web page content or blacklist specific sites — rather than just blocking a plug-in or removing an app — in order to exclude certain applications. That’s a net neutrality nightmare: If the iPhone blocks voice.google.com, the Federal Trade Commission is sure to come calling. As a result, richer browsers may well tear down the garden walls — and chip at the enviable revenues — of companies like Apple.

Google Code Blog: HTML5 and WebKit pave the way for mobile web applications April 8, 2009

Posted by hruf in Mobile & Gadgets, Programming.
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When I first started at Google, we were building a Java ME email client for the phones of the day. It’s an excellent product – still the fastest, slickest way to get your Gmail on many devices because of Java ME’s widespread penetration. Yet it always bothered us that this client didn’t really leverage the core strength of the desktop Gmail platform: sheer ease of access from anywhere, and constant updates and improvements. To use the client, you have to figure out how to install it and possibly navigate confusing network permission pop-up dialogs, and improvements could only be rolled out a few times a year in upgrades that required every user to download and reinstall their software.

via Google Code Blog: HTML5 and WebKit pave the way for mobile web applications.