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Sencha Touch: A Cross Platform HTML5 Mobile Application Framework

June 17th 2010

Sencha (originally ExtJS) has announced Sencha Touch: A cross platform HTML5 mobile application framework.  Currently it works on Apple iOS devices as well as Google Android devices, but more platforms may be added in the future.  Because both of these platforms use Webkit based browsers, it is possible to use new features of Webkit such as CSS gradients, transitions, transforms, and animations in order to get good performance.  

The framework supports touch events: not only simple touch events, but also non-standard events like doubletap, swipe, pinch and rotate.  This allows for interactions previously only seen in native applications.  Sencha Touch can load data from any data source on the server, including from JSONP sources like Flickr, as well as from your own server or YQL.  You can then bind that data to UI components, as well as make it available offline.  Sencha Touch also has frameworks for geolocation, including a standard Google Maps widget.  It has many of the standard components that you would expect in a mobile application framework either native or otherwise, and all of these components are resolution independent meaning that they will look just as good on the iPhone 4’s new Retina Display as they will on a Google G1.  Very cool!

It is interesting to note that this is a true framework, not a library.  We have seen attempts at building mobile applications using web technologies before, but they have never really gone all the way and bundled all of these tools together in one package.  Now you can have your UI framework, your data framework, your media players and much more all integrated together.  I think that this will be very powerful for the web, and I think that we will be seeing a lot more mobile applications built with web technologies in the coming months.  The only problem remaining is a distribution mechanism like the App Store.  The apps would only need to be distributed once since they are web apps and can receive updates automatically.  With a cross platform App Store, I think someone could do very well.  Get to work!

There are some cool demos for you to check out, and they are very impressive indeed.  There are three featured demos on the website, and more if you download the framework.  Geo Congress lets you “stay in touch with your government with access to local representatives’ voting history, contact information, and more.”  Kiva is “a fantastic new way to browse micro-loans from a great non-profit on your iPad.”  Lastly, there is a solitaire demo that is quite impressive, including animations and 3D effects.  Make sure you are using your mobile device to view these demos.

Very nice work, Sencha team! I am excited to see where this goes.  Be sure to check out the Sencha website to learn more about Sencha Touch, check out the demos to see what this framework can do, read the documentation and download the framework.

Update: Check out the video that the good folks at Ajaxian got with Michael Mullany of Sencha here.