The best hardware and software products of the year

InfoWorld's 2010 Technology of the Year Awards recognize the top solutions for business and IT professionals

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It started as a simple open source project to build a Web browser for Linux, then Apple adopted it, renamed it "WebKit," and unleashed a tool for creating cross-platform smartphone development. If you want to build an app that runs on multiple smartphones, there's no need to learn Java, Objective-C, and regular C to target the major platforms. A bit of JavaScript and CSS encapsulated in a Web site will run on the iPhone, the Palm Pre, and any Android phone because the WebKit engine renders everything. BlackBerry users can grab Bolt, a third-party browser built around WebKit.

While WebKit-targeted AJAX may not be slick enough for the most sophisticated games, it can do quite well with the casual games and practically everything else. JavaScript, CSS, and HTML can do more than simply display tables. A cascading style sheet mixed with some JavaScript can produce Web applications that look and feel like a native iPhone application. The lists look just like the lists of results built with native code. A touch starts a JavaScript-driven transition that will slide a new div into place.

jQTouch, a project started by David Kaneda, offers flexible themes, swipe detection, and many of the common widgets necessary to build something that looks like a native iPhone application. You don't write an application as much as just put together some HTML. The project isn't alone. Joe Hewitt, the Facebook developer, started iUi, another project that offers many similar features.

Using toolkits like these to create Web applications is dramatically simpler than creating native applications. Changes can be made in a few seconds because you, not Apple, control the server and the connection with the customer. There's no need to wait for the crack iPhone application analysis team to get around to approving your app or your bug fixes.

If your application absolutely must be built into a native application so that it can be sold through the iPhone store, there are other solutions that enclose HTML with a native wrapper. The iPhone API includes an object called UIWebView that uses WebKit to render HTML on the screen. Several nice open source projects like PhoneGap and Three20 offer simple frameworks that open up your JavaScript and CSS code in an UIWebView while also passing along some other information from the hardware, like the accelerometer.

The WebKit solution is a godsend for programmers who can't remember how to use malloc and the other grungy pointery methods in Objective-C. If you're proficient with JavaScript, a very common language these days, then you can whip something together quickly.

-- Peter Wayner

Google Chrome 3.0
When Chrome debuted in September 2008, it was easy to be skeptical. Between Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari, there just didn't seem to be much need for yet another Web browser. But over the last year, Google has proven the worth of its dark horse browser and then some.

Google delivered not one, but two major Chrome releases in 2009, and a third is well on its way. If you hadn't heard about them, you're forgiven; Chrome doesn't make much fuss about upgrades. Its update manager runs silently in the background, downloading and installing the latest patches automatically.

And that's not the only thing that sets Chrome apart. Its multiprocess design and innovative security model have yet to be matched (though Chrome's security isn't all it could be). Plus, it's one of the fastest browsers around, as a visit to SunSpider, Google's V8 Benchmark Suite, and other online JavaScript benchmarks will attest. According to Google reps, the V8 JavaScript engine in Chrome 3.0 executes code a whopping 39 times faster than Internet Explorer 8. And when it comes to page rendering and Web standards compliance, Chrome ranks among the best.

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