The explosion in mobile Web use, due partly to the prevalence of the iPhone and other smart-phone devices -- and a desire to make developers less grumpy -- have led Genuitec to propose a new open-source project at the Eclipse Foundation for an extensible mobile Web developer kit for creating and testing new mobile rich Internet applications (RIAs).
Coming as a sub-project under the Device Software Development Platform (DSDP), the FireFly DevKit project is still in the proposal phase, and the original committers are all from Genuitec, Flower Mound, Tex. [Disclosure: Both Genuitec and the Eclipse Foundation are sponsors of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Included in the developer kit will be a previewer and a debugger, a Web rendering kit, a device service access framework, a deployment framework, and educational resources.
The two tool frameworks will enable mobile web developers to visualize and debug mobile web applications from within an Eclipse-based integrated development environment (IDE). Beyond this the FireFly project will develop next-generation technologies and frameworks to support the creation of mobile web applications that look and behavior similarly to native applications and are able to interact with device services such as GPS, accelerometers and personal data.
The issue of developer grumpiness was raised in the project proposal:
When programming, most developers dislike switching between unintegrated tools and environments. Frequent change of focus interrupts their flow of concentration, reduces their efficiency and makes them generally grumpier :). For mobile web application development, web designers and programmers need to quickly and seamlessly perform incremental development and testing directly within an IDE environment rather than switching from an IDE to a device testing environment and back again.
One goal of the Web rendering toolkit is to make Web applications take on the look and feel of the host mobile device. Possibly, an application could run in the Safari browser on an iPhone, but appear similar to a native iPhone app.
Initially, example implementations of the project frameworks will be provided for the iPhone. As resources become available, examples for the G1-Android platform will also be developed. The project will actively recruit and accept contributions for other mobile platforms such as Symbian, Windows Mobile and others.
The current timeframe of the project calls for it to piggyback an incubation release on top of the Eclipse 3.5 platform release. The entire project proposal is available on the Eclipse site.