Category Archives: internet

A bug in embedded Internet Explorer in Windows 8

Long-time readers of this site may remember that I did some work on embedding Internet Explorer, and its core rendering component MSHTML, in .NET applications. The code is still online.

I noticed that it does not work properly in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Specifically, plain HTML works but you can no longer apply external CSS stylesheets. I reported the bug here (sign-in required).  I did not use my own component, but rather the standard WebBrowser control. I have appended the code to reproduce the bug in case you cannot see the report.

Microsoft has now responded as follows:

We were able to validate your feedback. However, based on the limited impact this bug may have, we will not be able to address this bug during this release.

This status is also known as “won’t fix” and gives me pause for thought. How many other little bugs are there which Microsoft is not fixing, but which break a certain number of applications?

If you are one of those few people using embedded IE in an application, I suggest checking Windows 8 compatibility now to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Perhaps it would be preferable to use WebKit or Gecko (Mozilla) rather than IE in any case. There is a thread on stackoverflow that discusses some options. OpenWebKitSharp looks promising.

Code to reproduce the bug:

Create a Windows Forms application in C# in VS 11. Add a Webbrowser control and two buttons, and an OpenFileDialog control. Also add a reference to the COM library Microsoft HTML Object Library.

Here is the code for the first button that loads some HTML:

string sHTML = "<html><head><title>Some title</title></head><body><p>Some text</p></body></html>";
this.webBrowser1.DocumentText = sHTML;

Here is the code for the second button that applies a stylesheet:

openFileDialog1.Filter = "CSS files|*.css";
if (openFileDialog1.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)  {
mshtml.HTMLDocument doc = (mshtml.HTMLDocument)this.webBrowser1.Document.DomDocument;
doc.createStyleSheet(openFileDialog1.FileName);
}

This is the stylesheet I am applying:

body
{
    font-family: Arial;
    font-size: 18pt;
}

To reproduce, run the application. Click the first button to load the HTML. Then click the second button to apply the stylesheet. In Windows 7 and earlier the stylesheet is applied. In Windows 8, the stylesheet is not applied.

UPDATE: It seems this bug was fixed in Windows 8 RTM, despite the “will not fix” designation. Good.

Financial Times thrives on HTML 5, paywall, and snubbing Apple iTunes

I spoke to Rob Grimshaw, Managing Director of FT.Com, shortly after Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the FT web app won an award for “Best Mobile Innovation for Publishing”.

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I was interested in speaking to Grimshaw for two reasons.

First, the FT is a publication which has successfully managed the transition from print to online. The latest published results , for the first half of 2011, report that FT Group sales were up 7% and profits up 10%, “enhanced by digital subscriptions.”

Second, the FT took the initiative to bypass Apple’s app store with its onerous subscription terms by remaking its app as HTML5, as reported here .
The award “was the icing on the cake for the whole process,” Grimshaw told me. “When we abandoned the native app and stepped out of iTunes, it was a big commercial gamble, and it was a rueful moment as well because we’d created a beautiful native app and won an Apple design award.”

Was the FT move all about subscription fees, or were there other factors? “It was not all about Apple,” said Grimshaw. “Certainly their 30% tax on subscriptions didn’t make sense to us, because we already have our own platform so why pay somebody else to use their platform? Second, they would have owned the relationship with the customer. That’s important for various reasons, but for example it makes it difficult to manage churn, which is a crucial aspect of a subscription business.

“There were some other reasons. The mobile market would have been problematic if we had to keep developing all our applications for many different  operating systems. The overhead is enormous. It doesn’t stop once you’ve launched the app, you have to keep ugrading and changing.

“HTML 5 offers a way out of that headache by producing code that runs across multiple platforms.

“When you add all of that together, it seems to be smart to go the HTML 5 route even though it was technologically risky because at the time nobody else had done it.”

So what has been the impact of the web app versus the native app?

“A lot of people said, if we leave iTunes we’ll disappear from the world. We haven’t found that to be the case. In the four month period after we launched the web app, from June through to October 2011, our traffic on the iPad and the iPhone increased by over 50%. 1.7 million people have now visited the web application, more than ever downloaded our old iPhone and iPad app combined.

“We have many tools and techniques which help us to promote and build audience in the browser, and they work just as effectively for the web app as they do for our normal web sites.”

Is the success of the web app a reflection of the type of app, which is content-dominated, or will web apps dominate more generally in the mobile space?

“I think that HTML 5 will dominate. The buzz around HTML 5 at Mobile World Congress reinforced that view. It feels to me that there is an unstoppable momentum behind it,” said Grimshaw, mentioning PhoneGap-style native wrappers as well as pure web apps. “The counter argument is that for some of the new features of phones and tablets you have to use native code. However, I think 90% of applications don’t need that kind of support. We produce a very sophisticated app, and HTML 5 covers all the functions that we would ever need to use.”

“Once people discover what they can do within the browser they will start thinking why would you develop in native when it creates all of these headaches.”

As form factors become more varied, do you see a convergence between what you do for mobile and what you do for the wider internet?

“I can see them coming together. I can imagine a day where a single set of HTML 5 code can power our site across the full range of smartphones, tablets and desktop. The only obstacle is that so many browsers on the desktop don’t support HTML 5 fully.

“That doesn’t make all the contexting go away. Now with our mobile development we are dividing screen sizes into four buckets, and the thinking is that we will have to design for those four screen sizes. Device manufacturers are going to carry on producing a device to occupy every possible niche, and as publishers we have to cope with that.”

How important is cloud and mobile to your business, what new opportunities does it offer?

“Mobile is incredibly strategically important. I’m personally convinced that mobile will be the main distribution channel for news in the future. People’s lives don’t stop when they leave their desks or exit their houses. They want to carry on their friendships, their business, their reading. If you have a powerful mobile device that can deliver that, you’re going to gravitate to that device, and pretty soon it does become the main channel.

“We already see the audience migrating onto mobile. About 20% of our page views now come from mobile devices. That could be over half within three years. Figuring out how to present our content, sell our subscriptions, deliver our advertising on mobile devices is hugely important.

“It’s a shift on a tectonic scale. For publishers this is a bigger shift than the shift from print to desktop, and it’s happening faster.

“It does create new opportunities as well. We have a new sales channel, we’re now selling our subscriptions through mobile devices. 15 to 20% of our new digital subscriptions every week are sold directly through mobile devices.

“It gives us the potential to reach new audiences. We’ve seen some good evidence from the mobile operators to show that our audience from mobile is much younger that our audience on desktop or on print. Devices are helping us to reach younger audiences and recruit readers who might be with us for the rest of their lives.”

What about social media and the relationship with the big web portals, Google, Facebook, Twitter?

“I see social media as a parallel trend to mobile. Mobile is the desire of people to take content with them physically. Social media is about the desire of people to take content with them virtually, and equally powerful.

“On the advertising side I find social media a little alarming because of scale. Facebook has a trillion page views a month, which makes them 400 times bigger than the BBC and 1500 times bigger than the New York Times. It’s scale which is unimaginable for most publishers, and they have tremendous insight into their audience. That’s a potent cocktail. And every time someone shares an FT article on Facebook, an extra bit of data builds up on their side that tells them about our readers.

“On the subscription side though it is all positive and they can be powerful sales channels for us. We have big communities in social media, 300,000 odd on Facebook, 1.2 million Twitter followers, and these are to some extend self-selecting marketing audiences, people who stuck up their hand and said we’re interested in the FT.

“We also believe we can find ways to allow people to consume content in the social media environment if they are subscribers. We’re working on finding ways to do that.”

What do you think of paywalls versus free content for newspapers on the web? Does the paywall only work because the FT is a niche publication, albeit a large niche?

“We are very much on the paywall side and unashamedly so, we think our content has tremendous value and people do not object to paying for it. We now have 270,000 digital subscribers and that compares to our newspaper circulation which is around 330,000, so we’ve been successful in building up a paying audience in digital which is now pretty close in scale to our paying audience. It’s been an enormously success business venture for us.

“When you look at the publishers that are giving all their content away, the reason they are giving it all away is in order to build up a bigger audience for advertising. But the scale of the competition in the advertising market is so huge that actually it is a fruitless exercise, unless you can acquire a scale which will give you billions of page views a month. It’s very hard to see how you can build a decent business just from online advertising. The numbers don’t stack up.

“My message to other publishers is not necessarily that you have got to have a paywall, but is that you probably need other ways to make money, other than online advertising.”

Google’s Eric Schmidt looks forward to an Android in every pocket

Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt addressed the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in confident mood, boasting of the strong growth in Android adoption and saying that the world would need to increase its population in order to sustain current rates of growth.

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His keynote was in three parts. He kicked off with a plug for Chrome for Android, handing over to another Googler to show off its unlimited tabs and predictive background downloading which gives you near-instant page rendering if you pick the top hit after a Google search.

Next, he gave a somewhat political address appealing for light regulation of the Internet, on the grounds that any change to the current setup was likely to make it worse – “regulators regulate, that is what they do”. He also expressed his hope that fast internet access would be better extended to the world beyond the wealthy elite nations, noting the role of connectivity in the Arab Spring and in making public the actions of brutal dictators.

What has all this to do with Google’s business? Mainly, I suppose, that more connections means more Google searches which means more advertising income; Schmidt acknowledged that this forms the great majority of the company’s revenue, in the high nineties percentage-wise.

The third part of Schmidt’s session was the most interesting, when he took questions. He was asked for his thoughts on companies (I am sure Amazon was in the questioner’s mind) which take Android and remove all Google’s services. It is open source, he said, and that is entirely permissible; his hope is that customers will demand Google services and the Android market.

There was a revealing moment when an Iranian in the audience challenged Schmidt over his appeal for a free Internet. Chrome for Android was not available in Iran, he said, because Google, “your company”, is blocking it.

Schmidt immediately communicated with his legal team, who turned out to be sitting in the front row. Then he confirmed the block and said it was a requirement of US law, because of sanctions against Iran. “I’m with you”, he said, but Google has to comply with the law.

Another point of note was the number of references Schmidt made to privacy issues. He said that we will see increasing personalization of search and better targeted advertising, such that users will not mind it. You will be able to opt out, but according to Schmidt you will not want to. He added that personal data collection and use will continue to advance as far as society deems it ethical, a fascinating turn of phrase and one that bears further examination.

What was not mentioned? Apple, Microsoft, patents, the impact of the Motorola Mobility acquisition (he did say that that this last is not yet complete and that currently the company is managed independently).

It was an impressive keynote overall, given from a position of strength, at an event which is dominated in many respects by Android devices.

WebKit dominance threatens mobile web standards – but who will care?

Daniel Glazman, co-chairman of the W3C CSS working group, has written a strongly-worded post describing how the “over-dominance” of the WebKit rendering engine threatens web standards.

Everyone loves the open source WebKit, so how is this so? The issue is a complex one. Those who make web browsers do not want to be tied only to those standards already ratified by the W3C as part of HTML or CSS. Therefore, they add features, sometimes in the hope that they will become standards, but use a vendor-specific prefix such as -webkit-,-moz- or -ms-. If you use those features in your markup, you do so in the awareness that they will only work on that specific vendor’s browser. The idea is that the best vendor-specific extensions become standard, in which case the prefix is dropped; or are replaced by an equivalent standard, in which case the prefix is also dropped. This has become an accepted part of the way standards are formed.

The issue now is that WebKit dominates the mobile web to the extent that web authors can assume its use without losing many users. WebKit is used in Apple iOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry 6 and higher, as well as on the desktop in Apple Safari and Google Chrome. Amazon also uses WebKit in the Kindle and of course the Android-based Kindle Fire.

The consequence, says Glazman, is that:

technically, the mobile Web is full of works-only-in-WebKit web sites while other browsers and their users are crying.

The further consequence, and this is Glazman’s strongest point, is that other browsers will have to pretend to be WebKit and support its extensions in order to give users a good experience – even if they have their own vendor-specific extensions that support the same features:

All browser vendors let us officially know it WILL happen, and rather sooner than later because they have, I quote, "no other option".

Glazman says “all browser vendors” which suggests that even Microsoft will do this, though that would be a surprising development.

This would mean that the -webkit- vendor-specific extensions were no longer vendor-specific. It would also meant that WebKit is in effect able to create web standards without the bother of going through the W3C:

It will turn a market share into a de facto standard, a single implementation into a world-wide monopoly. Again. It will kill our standardization process. That’s not a question of if, that’s a question of when.

says Glazman, suggesting that there is a risk of a return to the bad days when the dominance Microsoft’s IE6 prevented standards from evolving.

The parallel with IE6 is weak. IE6 was not an open source project, and the damage it did was in part because Microsoft deliberately chose not to invest in advancing HTML, preferring to drive users towards rich internet-connected Windows applications. It is difficult to see how that can happen to WebKit.

Nevertheless, the situation with WebKit is making it difficult for other mobile browsers to compete and does undermine the standards process. This is not really the fault of the WebKit team, though the W3C would like to see support for obsolete vendor-specific extensions dropped more quickly to discourage their use. Rather, it is a consequence of web authors seeing little value in adding support for other browsers that have little actual use on the mobile web.

It is worth observing that Glazman is a Mozilla guy, and his company Disruptive Innovations makes Mozilla extensions.

How can this be resolved? Glazman and others are right to raise awareness of the issue, but I doubt that many outside the standards community or browser vendors themselves will see this as a major problem.

The best fix would be for non-WebKit browsers to become more popular on the mobile web. Growing use of Windows Phone, for example, would give web authors more incentive to fix their markup. Another route to improving standards is via tools which do the right thing. Adobe’s strong support for CSS in Dreamweaver, for example, gave a significant boost to its use and helped to rescue us from font tags and the like.

Finally, it seems to me that the distinction between the “mobile” web and the “full” web is blurring, and rightly so. Users on mobile devices often tap the “full site” link where available since they have big enough screens to benefit. WebKit does not yet dominate the desktop Web. 

Telcos have a dying business model – APIs and cloud services are the future says Alcatel-Lucent’s Laura Merling

Laura Merling from Alcatel-Lucent spoke at the Monki Gras conference in London earlier this week, saying in effect that telecommunication companies have a dying business model.

She gave a two-minute summary of Telco history.  “First it was all about voice,” she said. “Then the intertubes happened. Now you had data … then it went back to voice, the big push for wireless. Then of course wireless moved, so it’s not about voice any more, it’s about the data.”

She expects the next step to be “connected devices … the phone goes away, everything you do both data and voice happens on other devices.”

What does this mean for telcos? They have become commoditised, she said, suppliers of data plans. “It is a big commoditised business that has no real innovation.”

“In the future, the data plans dies,”, Merling says. “Think about it. How many devices have you got? Think about connecting all of those. You probably want the same data plan. But why pay for a data plan? How will telcos make money? You can’t just keep increasing the data plan.”

Instead, the money is going to come from the APIs and accessing the services.

Enter Twilio, a virtual telco. “I think of twilio as a craft telco”, said Merling, tying in with the beer theme that flowed through Monki Gras. “Do they sell hardware? No. They have software and APIs.” She says the Twilio business model scares the industry: it is based on transactions, not data plans. She also noted how old established vendors are buying up software-based providers, such as BT acquiring Ribbit and Microsoft acquiring Skype.

Tomorrow’s telco, says Merling, is a based on a software stack. “Antennas and towers are not going to go away, but the infrastructure becomes all software based … combining network services with cloud infrastructure.

“At Alcatel-Lucent we sell hardware. We sell big giant boxes. But this is where it is going.” She says the telcos are now aware of this, hence the title of her session “How telcos got API religion.”

Her final prediction? “Jeff Lawson becomes the CEO of AT&T. Why? Because the model has to change.”

It was a thought-provoking talk, though the unspoken question was whether in fact the telcos will successfully transition or whether they will simply become less important, continuing to maintain the pipes while others profit from what flows through them.

I interviewed Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson in October last year.

How to brew better software: The Monki Gras in London

I attended The Monki Gras in London yesterday, a distinctive developer event arranged by the analyst firm RedMonk.

This was not only a developer event, with the likes of Andre Charland and Dave Johnson from the PhoneGap team at Adobe, Mike Milinkovich the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, and Jason Hoffman with Bryan Cantrill from cloud services (and Node.js sponsors) Joyent. It was also a serious beer event, complete with a range of craft beers, a beer tasting competition with nine brews to try, and a talk plus a free book from  beer expert Melissa Cole. An unusual blend of flavours.

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In charge of the proceedings was RedMonk co-founder and all round impressario James Governor. I am a big fan of RedMonk and its developer-focused approach; it has been a fresh and heady brew in the dry world of IT analysts.

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The Monki Gras did seem like an attempt by a regular IT conference sufferer to fix problems often encountered. The Wi-Fi worked, the food was fresh, unusual and delicious, the coffee was superb; though brewing good coffee takes time so the queues were long. Not everything scales. Fortunately this was a small event, and a rare treat for the couple of hundred or so who attended.

That said, there were frustrations. The sessions were short, which in general is a good thing, but left me wanting more depth and more details in some cases; we did not learn much about PhoneGap other than a brief overview, for example.

Nevertheless there was serious content. Redmonk’s Stephen O’Grady made the point succinctly: IT decision makers are ignorant about what developers actually use and what they want to use, which is one reason why there is so much dysfunction in this industry. Part of the answer is to pay more attention, and several sessions covered different aspects of analytics: Matt LeMay from bitly on what users click on the Web; Matt Biddulph (ex BBC, Dopplr, Nokia) gave a mind-stretching talk on social network analysis which, contrary to what some think, was not invented by Facebook but predates the Internet; and O’Grady shared some insights from developer analytics at RedMonk.

I had not noticed before that github now gets nearly double the number of commits than does Google Code. That is partly because developers like git, but may also say something about Google’s loss of kudos in the open source developer community.

Kohsuke Kawaguchi, lead for Jenkins Continuous Integration and an architect at CloudBees, spoke on building a developer community. His context was how Jenkins attracted developers, but his main point has almost limitless application:  “Make everything easy, relentlessly.”

Something I see frequently is how big companies (the bigger the worse) place obstacles in front of developers or users who have an interest in their products or services. Examples are enforced registration, multiple clicks through several complex pages to get to the download you want, complex installs, and confusing information. It all adds friction. If the target is sufficiently compelling, like apps on Apple’s app store, developers will get there anyway; but it all adds friction, and if you are not Apple that can be fatal.

The Joyent guys did not speak about Node.js, sadly, but rather on the distinction between a VP of engineering and a Chief Technology Officer. Sounds dry and abstruse? I thought so too, but the delivery was so energetic that they were soon forgiven. Hoffman and Cantrill moved on to talk about management antipatterns in the software industry, prompting many wry nods of recognition from the audience. “It is very hard for middle management to add value,” said Cantrill.

Milinkovich made the point that the most valued open source projects generally make their way to a software foundation; PhoneGap to Apache is a recent example. He then gave the talk he really wanted to give, noting that as new software stacks emerge they have a tendency to re-implement CORBA, a middleware specification from the Nineties that tackled problems including remote objects, language independence, and transactions across the Internet. CORBA is remembered for drowning in complexity, but Milinkovich’s point is that the creators of exciting new stacks like Node.js should at least research and learn from past experience.

Milinkovich also found time to proclaim that “Flash is dead, Silverlight is dead, browser plugins are dead.” Perhaps premature; but I did not hear many dissenting voices.

I tweeted the conference extensively yesterday (losing at least one follower but gaining several more). Look out also for a couple of follow-up posts on topics of particular importance.

Wikipedia goes dark for a day to protest against proposed US legislation

All Wikipedia English requests today redirect to a page protesting against proposed US legislation, specifically the draft SOPA and PIPA legislation.

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Other sites will also be protesting, including Reddit (a 12 hour protest) and Mozilla, the Firefox people.

Many web searchers will be discovering the value of the cached pages held by search engines. That aside, this is a profound issue that is about more than just SOPA and PIPA. SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy, and PIPA Protect IP. The problem is that the internet is the powerful means of sharing information that mankind has devised. This brings many benefits, but not so much if it is your proprietary information that is being exchanged for free (music, video, ebooks, software) or if it gives easy access to counterfeit versions of your products, with designer handbags, watches, drugs and the like being particularly vulnerable, because intellectual property forms a large proportion of the value of the purchase.

If you consider this issue at the highest level, there are three broad solutions:

  1. Do nothing, on the grounds that the world has changed and there is nothing you can do that is effective. Technology has made some forms of copyright impossible to enforce. Affected businesses have to adapt to this new world.
  2. Introduce legislation that widens the responsibility for web sites that enable or facilitate copyright infringement beyond the sites themselves, to include search engines, ISPs and payment processors. One of the debates here is how much the owners of the pipes, the infrastructure on which the internet runs, should take legal responsibility for the content that flows through them. Such legislation might be somewhat effective, but at a heavy cost in terms of forcing many sites and services offline even if they have only a slight and tangential relationship to infringing content, and greatly raising the cost of providing services. At worst we might end up with a censored, filtered, limited, expensive internet that represents a step backwards in technology. The further risk is that that such legislation may put too much power in the hands of the already powerful, since winning legal arguments is in practice about financial muscle as well as facts, rights and wrongs.
  3. Find some middle path that successfully restrains the flow of infringing content but without damaging the openness of the internet or its low cost.

There is of course a risk that legislators may think they are implementing the third option, while in fact coming close to the second option. There is also a risk that attempting to implement the third option may in practice turn out to be the first option. It is a hard, complex problem; and while I agree that the proposed legislation is not the right legislation (though note that I am not in the USA), there is no disputing the core fact, that the internet facilitates copyright infringement.

There are also aspects of today’s internet that concern me as I see, for example, children relying on the outcome of Google searches to paste into their homework with little understanding of the distinction between what is authoritative, what is propaganda, and what is anecdotal or simply wrong.

In other words, the “no control” approach to the internet has a downside, even if the upside is so great that it is worth it.

Exchange 2010 Service Pack 2 with Office 365 migration wizard and retro Outlook Mini

Microsoft has released Exchange 2010 SP2, which I have successfully installed on my small system.

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There is a description of what’s new here. The most notable features are the Hybrid Configuration Wizard for setting up co-existence between on-premise Exchange and Office 365, and Outlook Mini for low-end phones with basic browsers.

A hybrid setup lets you include on-Premise Exchange and Office 365 Exchange in a single organisation. You can move mailboxes back and forth, archive messages online (even from on-Premise mailboxes), and synchronize Active Directory information. The feature is not new, but the wizard is.

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This looks similar to the Exchange migration tools for BPOS and Office 365 so this is mainly a matter of baking them into the product.

Outlook Mini is very retro; I like it. It is also called Outlook Mobile Access and is similar to a feature of Exchange 2003 though it is new code; it is actually built using Outlook Web Access forms and accessed at the url yourexchange/owa/oma. There is no automatic redirection so users will have to be shown where to find it.

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Finally, this note amused me as evidence of how far litigation issues have permeated into Microsoft’s products. But what is the point of a “litigation hold” if it is so easily bypassed?

In Exchange 2010 SP2, you can’t disable or remove a mailbox that has been placed on litigation hold. To bypass this restriction, you must either remove litigation hold from the mailbox, or use the new IgnoreLegalHold switch parameter when removing or disabling the mailbox.

HTML5 scorecard: Amazon Kindle Fire weak, iOS 5 great, IE10 preview one of the best

The Sencha blog has a great series of posts on HTML5 support on various devices. This is of direct interest to Sencha because its products are JavaScript and CSS application frameworks, Sencha Touch for mobile and ExtJS for any browser. The latest post is on the Amazon Kindle Fire – and it is weak:

The Amazon Kindle Fire doesn’t seem designed to run HTML5 apps as a primary goal. It does a good job of displaying ordinary web pages and its resolution and rendering capabilities meet that need well. But there are too many sharp edges, performance issues, and missing HTML5 features for us to recommend that any developer create web apps primarily for the Kindle Fire. The iPad 2 running iOS 5 continues to be the tablet to beat, with the PlayBook a respectable runner-up in HTML5 capabilities.

Part of the problem is that the Fire runs Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread) which has a weaker browser than later versions. That is not the only source of disappointment though. According to Sencha’s Michael Mullany, the GPU is not used for hardware acceleration of browser content, the JavaScript timer is laggy, there is no embedded HTML5 video (videos launch in a separate player), and CSS corners are not properly anti-aliased.

But what about the Kindle’s cloud-accelerated browsing that we heard so much about when it was announced? This is the biggest disappointment:

One of the main selling points of the Kindle browser is supposed to be its cloud-caching and pipelined HTTP connection that uses the SPDY protocol. This does seem to speed up normal page browsing a little, but it’s not very noticeable and we didn’t test this rigorously. But for HTML5 web apps, where code is downloaded and executed, there doesn’t seem to be any performance difference when we tested with acceleration on and off. It doesn’t appear as if client JavaScript is executed on the server-side at all, so the Kindle does not seem to have Opera Mini-style server-side execution. And SunSpider scores were essentially the same when accelerated browsing was turned on or off.

Moving on from Kindle, it is interesting but not surprising to see a great report for HTML5 in Apple’s iOS 5. Less expected though is a big thumbs-up for HTML5 in Microsoft’s IE10 preview on Windows 8:

Simply put, (and with the caveat that we were running on the notably overpowered developer preview hardware) the IE10 HTML5 experience is one of the best we’ve seen on any platform to date. After a decade of web neglect, Microsoft is back with a vengeance.

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The main caveat is the absence of WebGL. Microsoft is supporting its own 3D graphics library.

Another worry for Microsoft is simply the level of hostility towards the company and IE in particular, among the developer and designer community it so much wants to reach. You can get a flavour of this from some of the comments to Mullany’s post, for example:

I never really like Windows and I absolutely despise Internet Explorer. There are so many exceptions in code to be made for Internet Explorer that i stopped trying so hard to make it look the same as other browsers. Hopefully, IE 10 will stop all of these exceptions and weird additions that are made to websites that make everything instantly awful so I can actually go back to trying to make things look nice in IE. It’s really sad though that so many people use Windows and IE that we cannot ditch it for a better system and better browser.

What about Android? The most recent offering covered in the Sencha series is Motorola Xoom which is a disaster:

We were excited about the first true Android operating system for tablets and had high hopes for a mobile browser that was as powerful as the platform. Sadly, the Xoom and Honeycomb are a real disappointment. We found consistent and reproducible issues in CSS3 Animations and CSS3 Transitions among other things. We had issues where the browser either hung or crashed. Regular scrolling was slow or below full framerate. We had issues where media playback failed or performed incorrectly. At times it felt like we were using a preproduction device, but we bought our test device from a Verizon Wireless store.

I have a hunch that the latest Galaxy Tab might fare better. Sencha did like the HTML5 support in the BlackBerry PlayBook though.

With Adobe Flash now in decline on mobile devices (Adobe is no longer working on the mobile Flash player) HTML5 support is all-important for rich browser-hosted apps; I will be watching with interest for future Sencha reports.

Microsoft backs ECMAScript, dismisses Google Dart

Microsoft has posted an article on Evolving ECMAScript on its IE Blog. ECMAScript is the official standard for what we call JavaScript. The company is proposing some minor additions “to address gaps in Math, String and Number functionality as well as Globalization.” It has also taken the opportunity to take a shot at Google, which is proposing a new web language called Dart:

Some examples, like Dart, portend that JavaScript has fundamental flaws and to support these scenarios requires a “clean break” from JavaScript in both syntax and runtime. We disagree with this point of view. We believe that with committee participant focus, the standards runtime can be expanded and the syntactic features necessary to support JavaScript at scale can be built upon the existing JavaScript standard.

Dart will compile to JavaScript so there is a measure of compatibility, but if the language catches on then browsers without a native implementation will be disadvantaged.