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Summary:

There are a lot of brave souls out there making mobile browsers, hoping to gain traction with the phone makers. But most of them are fighting a losing battle, for the mobile browser war is increasingly being fought between two camps — the Webkit-based browsers camp, […]

icon-goldThere are a lot of brave souls out there making mobile browsers, hoping to gain traction with the phone makers. But most of them are fighting a losing battle, for the mobile browser war is increasingly being fought between two camps — the Webkit-based browsers camp, which includes Safari on the iPhone, the Google Android Browser, the Palm browser and the Nokia browser; and the Opera camp.

Today Research in Motion bought Touch Mobile, a Toronto-based company developing a Webkit-based mobile browser. Maybe it’s time for Microsoft to throw in the towel and officially get on the Webkit bandwagon as well. With the BlackBerry still the reigning champion of the smartphone business, at least in North America, the Webkit is about to get a big boost. Even Mozilla’s Firefox Mobile has an uphill climb ahead, though one can’t blame them for trying. Many mobile industry insiders believe that the browser is one of the biggest drivers of the mobile Internet boom.

Frankly, I can’t wait for my BlackBerry Tour to get some browser smarts and become more useful than its current role of just a solid messaging device.

  1. I’m so glad RIM acquired Torch Mobile. Getting the BlackBerry running WebKit will open up a number of great “iPhone optimized” web apps and give developers a very dominant standard to develop for. If only Microsoft would drop IE on Windows Mobile and Zune.

    Between my iPhone and Google Chrome I basically only use WebKit these days.

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  2. It seems like Mobile web ubiquity is close-by — with Windows Mobile being the only major smart phone player not supporting WebKit now. I started a blog around WebKit because of its dominance on mobiles and awesome features.

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    1. David

      Thanks for that comment. I just wonder if the folks are going to maintain some sort of “ubiquity” or start turning web kit into their own “moat” instead.

      Good call on the blog.

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      1. True. Also: even among WebKit, the separate versions can be incredibly disparate. I’m currently work with the iPhone, Pre, and G1 and even among those, implementations of animation, offline storage, and geo-location are inconsistent.

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  3. I know Webkit has been mentioned a lot today, but is there any data of it’s market share compared to Opera? I was under the impression that Opera dominated the mobile browsing experience because they had browsers for smartphones and “dumb”phones. Sure Webkit will power browsers on Apple, Google, and soon RIM based phones, so will that give them more than 50% of the entire cell market? Is there any work being done to get a WebKit browser into the non-smartphone market?

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    1. I don’t know what Opera’s market share is, but its clear that it is not the future. Today’s smart phones are tomorrow’s dumb phones.

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  4. Qns to folks – Isnt this headed the Unix way where there were so many diff implementations that folks cdnt reuse much across these “versions”…To Om’s point – if each implementation is diff, wts the advantage of running of webkit….what can be leveraged across all these “versions” – write once, use many for apps?;

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    1. It’s true, the versions can be pretty different, but ubiquity (for the most part) is still achievable:
      * They’re mainly different “versions” of the main trunk, they’re not quite branches yet.
      * They’re all still mostly superior to other mobile browsers
      * Mobile devices like iPhone and Pre come with an easy firmware update process — I imagine more will soon as well — which facilitates keeping features in sync. Android’s recent “cupcake” update, for example, had more WebKit-specific features than its predecessor.

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  5. Om,

    Is there any confirmation that the Touch Mobile team will work on a Webkit browser at RIM? They were acquired by RIM, but the news article I read made it sound like the Touch Mobile team would work on improving RIM’s own browser, and not necessarily a Webkit browser. I saw no indications that a Webkit browser would come to BlackBerry devices. Please confirm.

    LL

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  6. I do not know much technical internals but my personal opinion is that the webkit browsers are better to use in comparison to Opera or browser on Windows mobile as I have used all…as Webkit browsers give better working experience as well as they are fast relatively.

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  7. The S60 was the first avatar of a browser using the webkit. I remember benchmarking it against the Jataayu browser in 2007, and realising that we were in a soup. Anyone could create a browser in 1/4th the time, with superior capabilities.
    Anyone who doesn’t use the webkit today, is simply reinventing the wheel.
    Google Chrome is a smart product that way!

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  8. I personally cannot wait for RIM to drop the current browser and bring developers some Webkit goodness.

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  9. [...] Although Research in Motion (RIM) has more than held its own in the smartphone market, it’s been plagued by the fact that both the iPhone and Android phones have better browsing experiences. In what looks to be a move to become more competitive in mobile browsing, RIM has acquired Torch Mobile, which has the Iris mobile browser, for an undisclosed sum. As CNet notes, Torch Mobile relies on the open source WebKit engine for mobile browsing, and this acquisition looks to be a smart move from RIM. Microsoft may also want to pay attention. [...]

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