A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine in Bath, Julian Cheal, pointed a friend of his, Chris Book my way on Twitter. Chris runs OpenMIC (Mobile Innovation Camp) and was looking for Brighton based mobile developers to meet up with to promote the upcoming OpenMIC 8, held at The Grand Hotel in Brighton on 4th November.
Naturally I invited him down to Brighton to attend the monthly meeting of the Brighton iPhone Creators group and get royally drunk with some fellow mobile devs in The Basketmakers, and equally as naturally Chris agreed.
The next day, slightly worse for wear, Chris and I met for a coffee to chat about life, business and mobile development. During this time I mentioned that I was currently investigating PhoneGap and was intrigued by Titanium as alternatives to native development. I knew very little about them at the time and wanted to learn more. Obviously whatever I said must have inspired Chris for later that day he asked whether I would like to present the result of my investigations at OpenMIC. After some consideration I decided that I would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to speak at a conference for the first time and accepted. I then realised that I had less than two weeks to pull everything together.
In reality, I had even less time than that. With other work commitments and the existing commitment of talking at the Five Pound App that Tuesday to present an app that Ian and I had been working on, it ended up boiling down to one full day and 2 evenings. I had decided to write the same app twice, once in each technology, and compare the results. I wrote the Titanium app on the Sunday afternoon, the PhoneGap app on the Monday evening after a full days work and the presentation on Wednesday.
Luckily for me it all came together (quite late on Wednesday night) and Ian and I rocked up on the Thursday morning at The Grand raring to go. There were 4 talks in the morning session, followed by a developer panel, then after lunch 2 ‘barcamp’ style sessions before the evenings socialising (partly funded by Microsoft).
Up first was Tom Hume of Future Platforms talking about how he felt that using web technologies in mobile app dev was the future. He explained how HTML and CSS were mature technologies that had already solved a lot of the UI problems that were still incredibly difficult to achieve when developing natively and proposed that mixing the two, using HTML where most suitable, and native when tackling more difficult problems, was his ideal.
Then came Stuart Scott, CEO of infohand, who had a lot of commercial experience and knowledge in the mobile world. He explained about the economics of mobile experiences and developing mobile applications and how perhaps using the web in mobile could help reduce the costs of creating engaging applications.
Next up was Mike Ormond, a developer evangelist at Microsoft. Mike showed us Windows Mobile 7, a handset and operating system that had so far been unmentioned when talking about cross platform development. Windows mobile 7 looks fantastic and his argument was that in order to keep the experience fantastic you had to develop specifically for the device, and that meant natively. Despite the talk being centered purely around WM7, I felt that the point stood in relation to all devices.
Finally it was my turn. Mine was the only purely technical talk, showing code. I felt rather embarassed when we got the first page of code and discovered that the colours had washed out totally on the projection and it was very hard to read what it said, but subsequent feedback was that this made me explain the code in a detail which I might otherwise have missed and so made the talk more useful. I learned a valuable lesson about displaying code snippits on projectors. You can view my presentation on SlideShare, download the code at GitHub and read more about it on this blog post.
I got asked to stay up on ‘stage’ for the developer panel which I gladly did. The panel was asked to explain why should a client pay multiple times for an application written natively for many devices, and not just pay once for a mobile website to cover all devices. The general conclusion was that it all came down to that last 5% of polish that makes a good mobile app a fantastic mobile app and that last 5% was far harder to achieve using the mobile web that with native apps.
Somehow I got volunteered to run a barcamp session about PhoneGap and Titanium in the afternoon and also managed to get a good play in with a Galaxy Tab that one of the delegates brought along. After that it was beers and more beers and then curry with beers. All of the delegates that I met were fantastic. So many knowledgable and friendly people and I had lots and lots of fun.
I am now trying to organize my time so that I can make it to the next openMIC on 2nd December in Oxford. Chris, Pinar and co have developed a great conference and I highly recommend that you find the time to go if one happens to pop up in your area in future, or make the effort to attend one somewhere else in the country.