Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unboxing iOS7, no WebGL

Well, my iPad2 has finished the download, and is into the updating process. I figured I should fire up a blog post and do this sucka real-time.

My first and pretty much only need in this release is for Apple to enable WebGL in Safari. WebRTC is pretty high on the list as well. These are core HTML5 technologies, and years ago Apple kicked Adobe Flash off their devices because, they said, they had a commitment to web standards over proprietary formats.

Granted, a lot of us read between the lines of Apple's statement as only applying to other people's proprietary formats, but we're a cynical bunch.

And in truth, the web is probably stronger now that HTML5 Canvas is out there. Apple did do us a slight favor with the "dragging kicking and screaming", but a lot of people were left with slightly assaulted feeling.

My update has finished the download, but is still preparing.

Oh, by the way, you need have 3Gb of free space before doing the update. For me, that meant deleting my biggest eBooks and my entire music collection. I doubt anyone who's had their iDevice longer than six months would have that much free space. I really hope I get that space back at the end, since I rather enjoyed using my device for more than merely running iOS.

Still preparing...

The problem is, the advancing HTML5 spec is doing to apple the same thing that Apple did to Adobe. Special feature that only iOS Apps had (like using the camera, compass, and local storage) are now core parts of HTML5. Why use an App when a web page can do it all?

Apple controls the App Store, and it has shown a propensity to attack any program, individuals, or technologies which try to end-run around their tollbooth. It makes perfect business sense, but has been rubbing people the wrong way.

Apple championed open standards when it was a way to leverage their device into the market, let's see if they keep the faith. But cynical me remembers Steve Jobs changing position from "Great artists steal!" to "we must defend our intellectual property!" as soon as it was profitable.

Prep finished, I pressed the install button (before it self-pressed) it verified, and now I've got the reboot screen. Waiting....

WebGL means that 3D games and systems can be written in the browser, not as an App. We know apple has ported the technology, because you can do HTML5 WebGL in iAds. Frankly, that's a little galling. Advertisers have access to better technology (in the in-app banner adds) than web developers do in their premier browser. Some people are beginning to release special browser apps that enable this one feature. (Not available in the app store, of course. You have to download and compile it on your OSX developer box. Oh, you don't have one? Too bad.)

The install bar is over a third of the way through. This is going to take longer than I thought.

Mmmm. Coffee. Over half done now.

So, here's the test. Will Apple enable a technology that creates a better cross-browser experience for everyone, if it means reducing the value of the App Store?

Oh, it's saying "Hello" now. It's user friendly, my dear chum.

First impressions:

  1. The keyboard feels 'sloppy' now. Like, an extra 50ms or so before the press is registered. I built a HTML keyboard that felt more responsive than this, clearly worse than the old keyboard. 
  2. They Skeumorphisms are gone, just like they promised. At least there's that.
And now for the big test.

FAIL. No WebGL. No UserMedia extensions.


Well, thank you Apple, for not helping. You've just managed to derail a major part of my project with one self-interested decision. I was hoping to use your hardware platform to do some interesting things, like map the entire of cis-lunar space using a network of internet connected telescopes, but I guess I'll have to use Android for that instead. Frankly, I don't have time to rebuild my apps for your gated cul-de-sac. It would have been nice to include your users too.

At least it works in iAds, eh? Now we know who you care about the most.

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