Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

Webkit: The Dominant Smartphone Platform

Based on Q2 sales of smartphones, Webkit-based browsers may soon ship on 85% of all smartphones sold.

Pie chart showing market share for webkit based on smart phone OS

Please keep in mind, this is not the reality right now. This number assumes RIM’s purchase of Torch Mobile really means that future Blackberry Browsers will based on Webkit.

There are some other caveats as well:

  • This understates Opera’s mobile market position. Opera has a large installed base of users.
  • It assumes market percentages will stay the same. We know this won’t be true.
  • It assumes that all of the “other” smartphone OS browsers are not using Webkit currently.
  • Mobile Firefox is just getting started. It is unclear how that will change the landscape.
  • Just because it is Webkit, doesn’t mean that it is the latest version of Webkit.

Caveats aside, you would be hard pressed to find another smartphone development platform with any where close to Webkit’s market share.

More importantly, this means that HTML5 for mobile is looking great. If Blackberry joins the ranks of Webkit-based browsers, that will means Symbian, iPhone, Android, Palm and Blackberry will all be on the path to HTML5 support.

The only laggard will be Mobile Internet Explorer, and even for Windows Mobile there are options like Google Gears which adds some HTML5 support to IE or installing other browsers like Opera or Firefox.

RIM Buys Torch Mobile, Big News for HTML5, Mobile Web

I nearly leapt out of my seat when I saw the news that Research in Motion (RIM), the maker of the Blackberry, has bought Torch Mobile. This is big news for HTML5 and the mobile web.

Last month I wrote about HTML5 from a mobile perspective and noted that “the real barrier to HTML5 adoption is RIM’s Blackberry platform.”

After the release of the iPhone, RIM said that it understood the importance of having a rich browsing experience on Blackberry. It made vast improvements with the latest version of the browser. But even those improvements weren’t enough.

The reality is that RIM needed to change course when it came to its browser. It can’t carry the full burden of browser development and expect to keep up with Apple, Google and Nokia which base their browsers on open source software.

So the big news isn’t the purchase of Torch Mobile, but what it likely means for the Blackberry Browser in the future. Torch Mobile’s browser was built on webkit. This purchase would seem to suggest that Blackberry is going to stop developing its own browser rendering engine and start using webkit.

It’s going to take awhile for Blackberry to incorporate Torch Mobile and update its browser, but things appear to be headed in the right direction.

PhoneGap at Mobile Portland Tomorrow, Monday, August 24th

Simply put: if you are a web developer that has ever dreamt of building an iPhone or Android application and selling it in the respective app stores, you can’t afford to miss Mobile Portland tomorrow night.

Why? Because Brian LeRoux, from Nitobi, is flying in from Vancouver B.C. to talk about PhoneGap. PhoneGap is an open source project that allows you to build iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Mobile applications using web technology and distribute them via the various app stores.

So there you have it. One of the lead developers of an extremely cool tool for building mobile apps in town for one night only. Clear your calendar and join us.

RSVP on Upcoming so we can make sure we have enough food and beverages for everyone. And please join us after the event at Produce Row Cafe for a late dinner and drinks.