The Noksoft Effect: Our Wishlist for Mobile IE9
Last week, Microsoft and Nokia announced that Windows Mobile would become the strategic smartphone OS for Nokia. Microsoft then announced that the Windows mobile browser would get an upgrade to IE9 later this year. This makes us quite happy, since IE9 is a major advance over the existing Windows mobile browser.
With a huge “anchor tenant” like Nokia, Microsoft now has the opportunity to drive the direction of mobile web technologies and the applications that use them. Microsoft let Internet Explorer stagnate through much of the 2000’s, in order to reduce the competition that web applications could pose to Windows applications. But recent competition from Chrome on the desktop and WebKit in general on mobile has rejuvenated its competitive impulses: IE9 is a major upgrade.
But Microsoft has work to do to regain mind-share and market-share in the browser market. Although IE9 has fantastic GPU-accelerated Canvas, that’s just a start. Sencha Touch 1.0 relies on many capabilities in other browsers that are not present in IE9, and can’t be duplicated by IE-only technologies. If mobile IE9 ships with its current set of desktop capabilities, then the Sencha Touch experience will be noticeably poorer on Windows mobile than on other OS’s like Android and iOS. So with that in mind, we decided (somewhat presumptuously) to draw up our wish-list for what we’d like to see in mobile IE9 (or 9.5?).
Here’s our recommended “to-do list” for Microsoft before it ships mobile IE9, in rough priority.
- CSS3 transitions and animations. It’s important that we be able to animate any block of content, not just perform animations inside a Canvas context. Animation makes web apps look and feel smooth and responsive and allows us to build better user experiences. With transitions, users can place the current content within the context of what’s happened before. Without them, content and data changes can look jarring.
- Device access. Access to device capabilities like camera and NFC after a simple permission grant would vault Windows ahead of every other mobile browser.
- Application cache. No application cache = no offline. And offline capable web applications are an important capability for mobile web. In our recent developer contest, a significant number of entries had offline support.
- Gradients. We can do gradients with IE-specific syntax, but it sure would be nice to have a single gradient declaration that would work everywhere.
And The Rest
There are lots more things we’d love to have, but have less of an impact for the apps that people are writing with Sencha Touch. These include web-workers (few devices can handle a second thread anyway), advanced CSS text effects like text-outline, border image support, multi-column layouts (incomplete as they are), HTML5 form elements, the history API and the rest of the smorgasbord of standards track technologies that are not in IE9’s latest preview.
(In addition, we’d love to see the CSS3 Flexible Box layout model make it into Windows mobile, but since layout is a pretty core part of any browser, and IE’s box layout is significantly different, we don’t expect it anytime soon.)
Alas, Poor MeeGo
While we mourn the passing of Meego as Nokia’s strategic smartphone platform (it did have an awesome browser), we expect to deliver a reasonable Sencha Touch experience on IE9 mobile when it ships on Nokia phones either later this year or next – even without our wish-list. But with our wish list, we could deliver web app experiences to rival or exceed Mobile Safari on iPhone4: the current gold-standard of mobile web devices, and the experience that we believe Microsoft should target to exceed.