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PhoneGap Day: The future looks golden

On the Friday of OSCON week, I attended PhoneGap Day in Portland, an event centered around the very popular multiplatform framework for developing mobile apps. As the PhoneGap blog says (linked from picture above), it was a good-sized crowd with over 230 people in attendance.

The venue, Leftbank Annex, was a great location for the event — perfectly sized, with an appropriately industrial/hipster vibe. The roundtable setup worked out surprisingly well. Most of the people who would be sitting backwards just slid their chairs down the table or turned them around, while still having a place to put their laptops, etc.

This table setup had the great advantage of facilitating conversation between each talk among groups at each table; unfortunately, the gap between talks was too short for much depth. At future one-track events like this or Monktoberfest (register here), I might try leaving 5-10 minutes open between each slot for people to talk about what they’d just heard. By the end of the day, people tend to forget some of the details that would make for interesting discussions. This was a real shame, because people were so excited about PhoneGap that the place was buzzing all day long. By the lightning talks at the end of the day, people literally couldn’t keep quiet anymore to the point that you could hardly hear the speakers.

As you can see in the picture, the audience was overwhelmingly quite young, although there was a smattering of gray hair. Unusually, I was clearly one of the older people in attendance — and at 30, I don’t often feel that way at tech events. I’m assuming a combination of the incredibly hot technology and the very accessible registration fee ($50) made that happen.

The talks were overwhelmingly deep dives into the latest developments related to PhoneGap, which was a perfect fit with the highly technical audience. Even the small minority of managers in attendance tended to have backgrounds in development.

The three that were most interesting to me were on:

  • PhoneGap plugins, by Don Coleman [slides]. Because PhoneGap isn’t an automatic multiplatform framework, it takes some platform-specific code to deal with various differences between e.g. iOS and Android. Being able to do this more easily is the essence of plugins, and Don was talking about improving the plugin experience for developers.
  • PhoneGap Build, by Andrew Lunny [slides]. At its core, this is a packaging play. It’s about lowering the barrier to entry it takes to go from source code to a mobile app that’s ready to submit to app stores. Accelerating the development cycle is full of win: a demo on new work called Hydration will allow you to push code up and get a built app delivered to your phone. Dan Silivestru’s talk on the Ripple mobile emulator, now available at emulate.phonegap.com, tied into improving and speeding up the dev/test cycle as well.
  • PhoneGap 3.0, by Brian Leroux [slides]. Brian talked about the stats behind PhoneGap so far, and I’ll show you some pictures shortly. He next talked about the future of PhoneGap, looking at things like API deprecation at 6 months, the addition of Tizen and Boot to Gecko as new platforms, and improving the developer experience.

I want to look at a few of Brian’s pictures in more detail. Here’s one showing downloads since 1.0:

They’re seeing roughly 100K downloads per point release, indicating a very strong developer community of at least that size. Likely much larger, because most people tend not to upgrade on a regular basis, but instead when they’re otherwise changing their apps.

Unique visitors to their website shows that PhoneGap’s developer traction continues to increase since what my fellow RedMonk Stephen wrote late last year:

There’s an unmistakable upward trend over the past year, and this month only appears low because PhoneGap Day took place mid-month so there’s not a full 31 days of data.

The last piece of interesting data that Brian showed was on bugs filed and fixed:

You can see a continuing trend of both filing and fixing more bugs (in light and dark red, respectively), which I would suggest indicates a growing userbase. The decline in June could be due to the focus on getting 2.0 ready, while July, as mentioned before, isn’t a complete month so the numbers are likely higher today. I’d also expect that most easily discoverable bugs in existing code have been found and low-hanging fruit are also getting fixed, so the pace of both new and fixed bugs will more closely track the addition of new code in the future.

All in all, PhoneGap Day exhibited an extremely healthy community with a strong future. Things are looking strong for multiplatform mobile development.

If you’d like to hear more about PhoneGap from two of its founders, Andre Charland and Dave Johnson, they spoke at Monki Gras this spring:

Disclosure: Adobe, a client, covered my registration and hotel to attend PhoneGap Day.

by-sa

Categories: mobile, open-source.