Microsoft and Google need to step up a Gear

Summary:In terms of applications, the mobile world still feels like a bit of a poor cousin where the Web giants are involved. How long til it shrugs off its rags like Cinderella and bursts into the daylight in all the finery it deserves?

In terms of applications, the mobile world still feels like a bit of a poor cousin where the Web giants are involved. How long til it shrugs off its rags like Cinderella and bursts into the daylight in all the finery it deserves?

Take a couple of announcements that came out last week -- Microsoft bringing Silverlight to Nokia mobiles and Google Gears coming to Windows mobiles.

Gears has been around for a long, long time -- well, in tech terms at least: it was launched last May, and Silverlight came out around the same time.

And now, not far short of a year later, we're seeing both Gears and Silverlight being polished up for two of the big names in wireless: Nokia's S60 and Windows Mobile.

About time.

I'm not sure why big names like Microsoft and Google are still treating mobile platforms like an afterthought -- and to add insult to the injury of a year long wait for mobile versions of this software, Google didn't even bring out Gears for its own Android offering, which is just plain puzzling.

Granted, it's working on an Android-specific version of Gears, but bringing it out for Internet Explorer first doesn't exactly send the right message about where Android is heading.

I can almost see Microsoft's logic with Silverlight -- rich media is well entrenched when it comes to desktop browsers, and less so with their mobile counterparts. There's still a significant base of individuals who don't use the mobile Web -- don't need to, don't want to or just don't have a phone that makes browsing the easy experience it should be. Best to put development efforts into desktops, where there's a bigger market, the company presumably thought.

But Google's Gears logic is a mystery to me. The theory behind Gears is that you can continue working on your applications when you go offline -- in Australia, for example, surely this is ideal territory for mobile workers. Lost a signal? Outside network coverage? No need to stop working (alas).

And there's the emerging markets logic: for many people, a mobile browser is the only available way to get on the Internet. Emerging markets phones may not necessarily be ideal for remote working or rich media but they're catching up fast, along with the networks.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer was talking last week at the MIX 08 conference about how companies must acquire multiple skill sets in order to stay relevant in the industry. It should really be looking at acquiring those mobile skill sets a whole lot quicker. Silverlight for mobiles is already beginning to look like yesterday's news.

Topics: Google, Mobility

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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