In light of the move towards cloud computing, the Web browser is fast becoming the most important application on any mobile platform, whether it be the Nokia-led Symbian OS, Apple’s iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, LiMo or any other. An argument I made recently in relation to Android and fears that native third-party applications running on different versions of the Google-developed OS could face compatibility problems.
See also: Android, it’s the browser stupid
Today GigaOm summarizes the thoughts of Bob Morris, head of mobile marketing for ARM Holdings, the company that designs “cores” for chips that power mobile devices. Morris goes one step further by arguing that the importance of the browser now supersedes the operating system itself. Browsers are the new application framework, he says, and as a result ARM is researching how to optimize their cores for specific Web browsers not just the various operating systems.
“Morris believes the increasing number of services accessed through a web site such as Facebook or Gmail are what chip vendors and device makers needs to pay attention to”, writes GigaOm’s Stacey Higginbotham. As a result, ARM recently inked a partnership with Mozilla and other vendors to build a Linux-based mobile computing device designed for Web browsing.
Apple raising consumer expectations
Despite the current excitement surrounding the new iPhone App Store, Apple’s decision to first launch with an emphasis on browser-based applications would appear to support Morris’ line of thinking. There’s certainly no doubt that the iPhone’s version of Safari pushes the envelope for mobile Web browsers, along with significantly raising consumer expectations, and as a result will likely force others to raise their game.
In fact, this has already begun to happen. Just witness HTC’s decision to bundle the latest version of Opera Mobile with its new flagship smartphone, the Diamond Touch, in replace of Pocket IE, despite running Windows Mobile. We’re also seeing new entrants in the mobile browser space, including start-up Skyfire, and Mozilla who are developing a version of Firefox for mobile phones.