Ok I’ll give the iPhone this one

From Ben Metcalfe on the unified mobile platform or why the iPhone is really important,

The reason why the iPhone is an important phone is not because of its shiny gadgetness or its touch interface. It’s not even important because it’s the first serious media player to be combined with a phone.

It’s important because of its web-based approach to application development. I believe this approach will spawn other manufactures to follow suit and in turn we will find ourselves with a truly unified development platform not owned by any single vendor or manufacturer.

Right now developing applications for mobile phones is a pain with no single way of rolling out an application to every phone (or even the majority of phones) on the market. Sun’s J2ME was supposed to solve all this but instead we still have a chaotic environment of different MIDP profiles, screensizes, capabilities and even carriers who prevent unsigned (read: approved) java applets from running on some of their phones.

This is kind of what the world of computing was like before the Internet – when Macs wouldn’t read files created on PC’s and vice-versa. The internet came along and a common set of standards were created that allowed documents to be interchanged between any computer. Later on we managed to coerce those standards into lightweight applications that more often than not provide all the functionality we needed.

I believe we are finally going to see this happen on the mobile phone. Apple is leading the way by promoting the iPhone’s Safari browser as the development environment for the iPhone – but there is no reason why this can’t be emulated on other phones too.

He's right but I'm sorry this doesn't go far enough for me. I would like to see much more in the browser API. Access to the GPS and Camera, Offline storage like Google Gadgets, Widgets? Opera are best placed to do this but they cover so many phones. The Mozilla builds of the Mobile Firefox (Minimo) could be the perfect platform to do this, as its open source and could be adapted by every single manufactor to boost the sales and power of there own mobile device. Safari sucks and we all know it. Yes its built on webkit but geez what the hell did they do to it?

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.