Google manager: Developing for mobile browsers is ‘always a challenge’

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About a dozen of Google’s Web services are still without versions catered to smart phones, as The Times reported Wednesday. The reason, as one Google product manager puts it, is that developing websites for phones is ‘always a challenge, given those browsers.’

A Google representative never got back to us regarding the company’s mobile divide. But Ronald Ho, whose Google Profile page says he’s a product manager with the Mountain View, Calif., company, contacted me on Twitter to defend the shortcomings of one of his products.

The Times noted that the mobile version of Google Docs, the Web-based word processor and spreadsheet application, doesn’t let users edit documents, only view them.

‘We’re always trying to improve this experience,’ Ho wrote in his tweet. (Thanks to Jeremy Rothman-Shore for getting Ho’s virtual attention.)

While Ho is right that working on a cellphone browser is less forgiving than on a desktop, Sam Schillace, Google’s engineering director who created the software that eventually became Docs, has overcome bigger problems.


‘We’ve worked in so much more constrained environments than the browsers today,’ Schillace said of desktop browsers in an interview with The Times less than a year ago. ‘The browser is the ultimate wild card. You can put your software on any smart phone.’

Now that many new smart phones, including ones running Google’s Android system, have at least 1-gigahertz processors and half a gigabyte of random-access memory, they’re practically on par with the computers that were in homes when Schillace began work on Writely, the predecessor to Docs.

However, Schillace echoed Ho’s recent sentiments that mobile browsers are relatively puny.

‘The hardware is fairly slow, fairly underpowered, and the bandwidth is restricted,’ Schillace said in December. ‘The mobile platform is like a kiosk in India.’

-- Mark Milian

Image courtesy of Google