Over The Air and Kirin

overtheair.gifOn Friday I was at Over the Air at Bletchley Park. There were some some great sessions, I met many people I already know and I made lots of new friends. Maybe it was the sessions I chose to attend but, on the whole, the event had an Android heavy bias. Maybe it’s just that, as I observed last week, Android is currently more of an innovator’s choice.

The most interesting session for me was by Future Platforms on Bridging the Gap between Native and Web. James Hugman described how they evaluated various web technologies (Sencha, jqtouch, jQueryMobile, PhoneGap) and tools (e.g. Titanium) for their Glastonbury iOS, Android and Qt app for Orange. They eventually decided none of them could satisfy the required UX fidelity and they set about creating their own framework, called Kirin, for creating multi-platform apps.

Kirin uses native for the UI and Javascript for the business logic allowing the latter to be shared across platforms. Unlike some other solutions, keeping the UI native reduces the number of calls to/from Javascript thus preventing the need for a (large) optimised Javascript interpreter to be bundled with each app. Apps just use the Javascript interpretor already on the respective platforms. Kirin has just been open sourced so that anyone can have a go at using this technology for open source projects. James claimed to have realised gains in app productivity when using the framework for the Glastonbury project. The only downsides I can see at the moment are that there’s no documentation which might make for a steep learning curve, it might get difficult debugging Javascript when run within the ‘native’ apps and you might need to hand craft something native if your Javascript business logic needs to call into deep phone functionalty. However, Kirin might be worth considering for information heavy apps such as those like the Glastonbury app. You can learn more on Tom Hulme’s blog.

Over the Air seemed to have a buzz about it this year. The location, topics, great weather and developer enthusiam seemed to come together to create a unique event. Matthew, Dan and Margaret managed to keep everything running smoothly, even arranging more food last minute when there were more visitors than expected (about 400 vs 250 expected!). The only casualty was the WiFi but that didn’t seem to matter with people using MiFi and phone connections to feed their Internet addictions. Thanks to the organisers for creating what was a memorable event in such a way to make it free for developers apart from a small donation to Bletchley Park.