Native mobile apps may still be the best way to deliver mobile applications that provide rich, enjoyable experiences, but there is a place for the mobile web, and in many cases, it is increasingly promising.
Technically, however, many challenges remain. The number of mobile devices and platforms grows by the day, and capabilities often differ significantly.
The jQuery Mobile project, which was announced in mid-2010, aims to "to create an elegant HTML5-based user interface library for the jQuery community designed to work on all popular mobile platforms".
Yesterday, the project took a big step toward achieving that goal with the release of jQuery Mobile 1.0. The framework, which delivers a library of touch-optimized layouts and UI components, supports browsers on Apple iOS 3.2 through 5.0 as well as Android 2.1, 2.3 and Honeycomb, amongst many others; the jQuery Mobile team boasts that all target platforms it sought to support are supported.
But does it live up to expectations? Numerous commenters on Hacker News complained about poor responsiveness. One, for instance, reported, it "jumps around, feels really slow and has some troubles responding to my taps." Others suggest that other frameworks such as jQTouch and Sencha are further along.
Needless to say, if jQuery Mobile is to do for mobile what jQuery did for the web, it will need to do more than provide compatibility for a wide range of mobile platforms; it will need to provide the foundation for great mobile web experiences.
The good news is that the jQuery brand is strong and there's plenty of support from the community, so improvement is all but certain and companies and developers alike will want to keep an eye on jQuery Mobile as it evolves.