Browser Advances Key to Mobile Cloud Adoption

To support mobile cloud computing, there is an increasing effort to develop better mobile browsers that closely imitate the execution and user experience of natively-installed applications.

Olafur Ingthorsson

January 27, 2011

3 Min Read
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Olafur Ingthorsson is an IT professional in Reykjavik, Iceland who writes about cloud computing at Cloud Computing Topics.

The key requirements for mobile cloud computing are a web interface and Internet access to remotely stored applications in the cloud. Handheld mobile devices like smartphones and tablets require browsers that can quickly display and execute remote applications optimized specifically for mobile cloud computing. From a user perspective, this makes it less obvious that the application is not native or handset-centric, but run from the cloud.

To support mobile cloud computing, there is an increasing effort to develop better mobile browsers that closely imitate the execution and user experience of natively-installed applications.

Native and third-party mobile web browsers

There are basically two types of mobile web browsers available, those that are platform or operating system specific, or native, and those that are multi-platform. Normally, developers of a particular platform  develop and include web browsers as a part of the platform. For example, Nokia build its smartphone line on the open-source Symbian platform, currently with a native browser based on the open source WebKit browser engine,  called Browser 7.2 for Symbian^3 devices. Similarly, Android has an native browser that's also based on the WebKit layout engine, with some of Chrome‘s JavaScript features included. The browser is simply a part of the Android OS and has no specific name.

Then there are the multi-platform mobile browsers developed by third-parties, which can be installed and supported on different mobile operating systems. Examples of these include Opera Mini and Skyfire for smartphones running  Windows Mobile, Android, iPhone and Nokia S60. In many case,s these multi-platform browsers outperform the native browsers. For example, The Opera Mini  received the 2010 Reader´s  Choice Award Winner at as the best mobile browser.

Multi- platform development tools

Clearly, the development of more powerful and feature-rich mobile browsers will continue as the number of applications and services migrate to the cloud. To simplify the complexity of developing for multiple mobile platforms, several companies have started to offer solutions that enable developers to build new applications once but deploy them on different mobile platforms.

FeedHenry provides tools and cloud-based PaaS infrastructure that allows developers to start building and deploying new apps which will run across most smartphones – without requiring specialist knowledge of each smartphone platform. Another company, RhoMobile, similarly provides platform-agnostic development and deployment tools that support enterprises and developers in creating, distributing, deploying and manage cloud-based smartphone applications.

Cloud-based mobile applications

The future of cloud-based mobile applications certainly looks interesting. In a 2010 research report, Juniper Research predicts that revenues from cloud-based mobile applications will reach nearly $9.5 billion by 2014. This forecasted growth is largely contributed to several factors, including the increasing adoption and coverage of mobile broadband, sophisticated collaboration needs and technical novelty and standards like HTML5, the Open Mobile Alliance Smart Card Web Server as well as the GSM Association "OneAPI" standard, which allows mobile and other network operators to expose useful network information and capabilities to Web application developers.

All these trends add value to mobile cloud computing and help advance its development. Undoubtedly, we will see many new solutions that change our current perspective of the mobile cloud and enable new usage patterns of many apps and services.

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