PhoneGap, the Mobile Platform Democratizer

Phonegap is an opensource development framework for mobile platforms. It allows developers to build native apps in HTML and JavaScript. Currently PhoneGap works for the iPhone and Android, but Blackberry and other OSs are on the way. You can get PhoneGap from Github or Google Code.

There are eighteen iPhone apps listed on the PhoneGap site. Though the apps are created with web technologies PhoneGap provides access to the phone’s client APIs and run in Objective-C. I tested both Roadtrippr and the fun Blok-Buster Lite. As promised the apps are able to use my phone’s location, accelerometer and multi-touch controls. Though the functionality was there both apps seemed a bit flat. This could have been related to their design, but I suspect that it is a PhoneGap issue.

Nitobi, the Vancouver-based company behind Phonegap, intends to make money via future services. Developers will be able to upload their HTML and JavaScript and get back a URL for a tested, compiled app for each platform. Nitobi won the People’s Choice award last week at the Web 2.0 Expo SF during our Launchpad event where they launched a desktop emulator for their supported patforms. Both Techcrunch and ReadWriteWeb covered the event.

PhoneGap still has a ways to go before it is the one framework to rule them all. Their Roadmap is below and they would be thrilled if any of you wanted to assist them. In the feature-platform matrix below green means done, yellow means in-progress and red means not currently possible (they’ll have to update the redblock in the Copy/Paste column of the iPhone for when 3.0 comes out).

phonegap roadmap

Though the Palm Pre isn’t listed it is definitely on Nitobi’s mind, but don’t expect them to support regular mobiles or even earlier smart phones. Only the latest generation of smartphones will be targeted.

There’s a gold-rush happening right now in mobile marketplaces. However not everyone is able to participate and not all platforms are receiving equal attention. PhoneGap has the potential to be a great democratizer. It lowers the bar for developers to create powerful applications out of very familiar web technologies. It also enables sites to support versions of their apps for mobile platforms other than the iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone (or even if you do) you should be cheering this project along.

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