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Monday, April 21, 2008

Open-Source Software, Widgets Go Mobile

Open-source software and widgets are going to improve the Web experience on mobile phones. While a large number of phones today still use browsers with very limited web browsing capabilities, many smartphones are incorporating browsers that support the latest capabilities such as AJAX and RSS, as well as websites optimized for viewing on a mobile device.

ABI Research sees this segment of the mobile browser market accounting for the vast majority of growth over the next five years, as the open-Internet browser (OIB) segment for mobile grows from 76 million in 2007 to nearly 700 million browsers delivered in 2013.

"The focus today for mobile browser developers is to take advantage of the latest web standards while also developing solutions tailored towards the unique experience of using a browser on a mobile phone," says research director Michael Wolf.

"The most recent commercial solutions from Opera, Openwave and ACCESS, as well as those using open source solutions such as Webkit, are targeted towards allowing consumers to access content on the web without limitations due to browser constraints."

Still, it's important to note that despite the best efforts of browser vendors and handset manufacturers, web usage on mobile devices has a significant distance to go in closing the gap with PC-based browsers.

The absence of important plug-ins such as Flash on many handsets and the constraints of many phones compared to the PC mean that even OIB browser vendors such as Skyfire continue to see a need for server-assisted architectures for transcoding and web acceleration.

"There is a lot of development momentum for web content on mobile phones," adds Wolf.

The move towards web-based applications means browser and web services engines will become increasingly important for mobile, whether these are in a commercial browser implementation or a customized widget.

Ultimately, the long-term trend away from native applications to web-based applications means browser and web services engines will be increasingly important components in the mobile environment.