Apr 07 AT 4:45 PM Alex Byrnes 3 Comments

Interview with PhoneGap Developer Brian LeRoux

As the number of phone platforms increase, multi-platform coding gets harder and harder.  A new open source project called PhoneGap is trying to make it easier while bringing web coders into the game.  I asked PhoneGap developer Brian LeRoux these questions:

AAM:  Could you describe the purpose of PhoneGap for those who don’t know?

Brian LeRoux:  PhoneGap’s purpose is to enable web developers access to native
features of mobile devices with open standard web technology: HTML,
CSS and JavaScript.

AAM:  PhoneGap is available for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry. Are there others on the way?

BL:  Yes! We have plans for Nokia Symbian, Windows Mobile and the Palm Pre.

AAM:  The PhoneGap magic happens when you use WebKit’s addJavascriptInterface to add links between the developer’s Javascript and your Java code. How would you compare developing this interface on Android to doing the same for iPhone and Blackberry?

BL:  Good question! The iPhone SDK has essentially the same abstraction of WebKit enabling easy bridging. Blackberry is slightly more complex–we need to set cookies to communicate between the native API’s and the browser instance and then do some JavaScript backflips to hide this implementation.

The Nokia and Palm platforms already support web interfaces to WebKit so all that really needs to be done is JavaScript shim that mimics the PhoneGap API for compatibility. Other developers have successfully built WebKit to Windows Mobile so we’re looking to take the more serious approach of doing a custom build w/ the PhoneGap layer for that platform.

AAM:  So far it looks like PhoneGap on Android includes interfaces for GPS, the accelerometer, phone functions, vibration among others. What are the interfaces that developers can expect next for Android?

BL:  Contacts API and full Camera support are the next big API’s we hope to tackle.

Another big problem we’d like to solve is Bondi’s OMTP (Open Mobile Terminal Platform) set of API’s. Right now it exists in the form of specification and has a great deal of conceptual support. We’d love to turn those concepts into a usable cross platform implementation.

AAM:  Do you know of any developers who are selling software for all three phones now?

BL:  There are a number of developers selling apps for the iPhone and Android. The Blackberry store is rather new and, unfortunately, the Blackberry browser has rather poor rendering so it is generally being ignored by the PhoneGap community. We’re hoping they fix their browser (or just get it over with and adopt WebKit) sooner than later.

AAM:  With all of this interoperability amongst the major phone platforms, do you foresee multi-platform stores becoming popular in the future?

BL:  I think its too early to tell. Perhaps in the future when the vendors have stratified. I would imagine that the Android model would lead to 3rd party platform agnostic stores in the longer term.

AAM:  How can open source developers help with PhoneGap? What kinds of contributions are you looking for?

BL:  We need leaders to take on the Nokia and Windows Mobile platforms today but we welcome help in the form of any code, patches, tests, documentation, participation on the mailing lists, editing up our wiki, example applications, blog posts, presenting at local mobile user groups — every bit helps. Feel free to contact us and let us know how *we can help you* promote and support PhoneGap. This is a community effort: the vendors and telcos are not going to build an interoperable and open source platform any time soon. If you believe in the web, standards and an open future we’d love to talk.

With PhoneGap you can develope for multiple mobile platforms at once.

With PhoneGap you can develope for multiple mobile platforms at once.

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