A JavaScript Phone: Microsoft’s Night Terrors

Today Mozilla announced their proposal for providing phone-like functionality to the browser in this hacks.mozilla.org article. Their goal is to provide “basic HTML5 phone experience within 3 to 6 months.”

Specifically, they want to provide JavaScript APIs for accessing the phone dialer, address book, SMS, and more. We already have support on Android and iOS for getting geolocation data from GPS. There is also some support for taking photos using only JavaScript. And don’t forget the FileReader and FileWriter APIs.

Really, accessing this type of phone functionality is only one step away from now. Not two steps. Not a year. It is right around the corner. Combine that potential with the fact that Firefox, Chrome, and Safari are on release schedules measured in weeks, not the years we saw in the early and mid 2000s.

Take Firefox for example. Version 2 was released in October 2006, version 3 in June 2008, version 4 in March 2011, version 5 in June 2011, and version 6 this month–August 2011. That’s right, that fast. In 2011, Firefox moved to a 6-week release cycle.

Chrome is probably even more agressive. In less than 3 years, it has gone from version 1 to version 13–and versions 9-13 were released in 2011 alone!

So 3 to 6 months suddenly seems like a long time in the world of browsers. It is very doable that we will very soon see phones opening up a new world of possibilities. Web apps doing the work of native apps. The biggest mobile browsers–Chrome and Mobile Safari–are made by the OS makers themselves. So if they want to move quickly they can.

For years pundits have speculated that Microsoft Windows would soon be obsolete. It is threatened by cloud computing like Gmail and Google Office apps and is now threatened by mobile apps. Microsoft tried to break in the mobile game with Windows 7 Phone, but haven’t made any headway. In desparation, they have made a partnership with the handset manufacturer Nokia, but many feel that Windows Phone Software is doomed no matter how many people get stuck with it on their phone.

What cards does Microsoft have left? JavaScript and Mobile Browsers are rising so fast that soon no one will care about operating systems, only about browser capability. Microsoft is peeing its pants right about now. Windows will never go away, but it seems to matter less and less in the world today.