Apple Shows Google The Web Hasn't Won

The Web may be the platform of the future, but at the moment, Web development technology doesn't provide Google with a way around Apple's ban on its Google Voice app.
Google declined to comment on whether it could create a Web app that matched the functionality of its banned Google Voice native iPhone app.

Mozilla's director of Firefox, Mike Beltzner, doesn't see a way to do it at the moment. "Presently there are various proposals for Web standards around accessing cameras, phones, SMS systems, built-in address books and other mobile-platform features, but none are near completion at this time, so there's no HTML or other standardized ways for Web developers to access phone-specific hardware through a Web page."

Mozilla would very much like to see Fennec, the mobile version of Firefox, on Apple's iPhone. But the terms of Apple's iPhone SDK forbid that from happening. In an online post to a Mozilla mobile platforms discussion group, Beltzner explained, "At this time Fennec cannot be produced for the iPhone due to limitations in the iPhone SDK which prohibit applications from executing / interpreting code -- this would basically mean that we can't ship a browser that runs JavaScript."

Jason Grigsby, a VP at mobile Web application developer Cloud Four, confirmed that Web development technology can't yet match the capabilities of the Google Voice app. "Replicating what they are doing with outgoing calls would not be possible with HTML 5," he said. "There's no standard for access to the microphone."

Among the various groups working to hammer out standards for access to mobile hardware, Grigsby singles out Palm and its webOS. He says that Palm SVP Michael Abbott told him that some of what Palm was trying to do with Web technology "was so far ahead of where others were that we had to make stuff up."

Grigsby said he isn't sure if or when Palm's work will make it to the various Web standards bodies because Palm's main concern has simply been getting its Pre out the door.

Nonetheless, Grigsby continues to believe that Web apps for mobile devices will thrive alongside native apps.

Once the rules for interacting with mobile phone hardware emerge, the question becomes whether Apple will implement them in the mobile version of Safari.