July 27, 2011

HTML5 Event Kicks Off with ‘It’s About a Revolution Not Evolution’

Attendees at the first time event focused on education and intensive interaction between leading members and thought leaders of the HTML5 developer and designer community were on their first sip of coffee when the first of two keynote speakers, David S. Rose, Rose Tech Ventures LLC, woke up the room himself.

An investor and business view

Speaking to some of the best and brightest web savvy technical people in the world, he invited them to understand the impact of HTML5 from his perspective as a technology investor. He then jumped right in with the provocative observation that:

“This is a case where the business world, I believe, knows more about the importance of HTML5 than techies… This is revolutionary not evolutionary.”

What is so revolutionary?

As a contextual set up, Rose gave a brief history of his own experiences with developing Internet –centric early version HTML products and services since the mid-1990s until now. His timeline went from the arduous process of obtaining the $20Million in funding for his first project and subsequent stops with different projects at $2 million, $200,000, $20,000 to today when for $2,000 or less you can develop, globally publish and disseminate, and get paid for an app in hours. Rose pointed to three things that are fundamentally different about now and what has come before:

  1. Smartphones put the web in our pockets
  2. The concept of standalone apps that exponentially enhanced the utility of those devices emerged and has taken off with 20B downloads to-date and accelerating
  3. The appearance of app stores totally disrupted traditional distribution systems across a broad spectrum of markets by changing buyer/seller relationships and the perceptions of value.

His point was that with HTML5 we already have gone (despite the standard after 7 years of work still being in draft form) from a basic markup language to a platform designed for apps development.

From his perspective this means the power of the device as platform is shifting to the web as platform leveraging a universal standard. Rose believes that not tying applications development to proprietary operating systems and platforms, when coupled with the globalization of the business and the coming exponential growth in smartphone adoption is a “fundamental game changer.” For investors it means the remaining barrier to entry will be ingenuity — entrepreneurial as well as technical in a world where anyone will be able to create an app, massively distribute it and get paid.  

What he says is in essence that this creates a target-rich environment for investors:

  • A tidal wave of ideas and projects
  • Inexpensive costs of production and distribution
  • Low risk based on the abilities to produce fast and cheap, test and validate quickly, and massively market and distribute

Picking winners and losers will still be as much art as science. The probable indefensibility of walled gardens on the net may create more opportunity but their fall and the disruption it can cause in markets and business models engenders more risk.

Rose says this is one of those rare instances where the market is ahead of the standards without being inhibited tremendously by this lag creating great rewards for the intrepid. As a result, business people increasingly believe in HTML5 as driver of a paradigm shift, and the smart money is thrilled by all of the opportunities this shift is presenting them. After all managing risk is their expertise.

A technology perspective — validating the revolution is at hand

The second keynote speaker Christopher Smith, Research in Motion (News Alert), Ltd., despite the title of his talk, “Beyond the Browser: and the evolving Mobile Web,” actually was in extraordinary agreement with Rose’s talk, albeit backed up by different proof points. Smith’s were:

  • Mobile is different: 1 in 5 new mobile phones is already a smartphone. They are, or will be, the only way much of the world will communicate. They are not replacing landlines or PCs. Instead, they are creating a user experience information consumption and creation paradigm shift. Reality in a world where annual device shipments will soon be double those of PCs demands a different reality.  Simply put, an always on/all ways and everywhere reachable world is quickly disintermediating a web world designed for the PC, server-side development frameworks, large-screen displays and experiences, and interactions based on a presumption of occasional session detachment.  
  • With the explosion of devices, device types, form and display factors, to meet user demands for a consistent and compelling, easy-to-use experience, developers do not want to build platform specific applications. Asset reuse, leveraging skills and knowledge, and being able to repurpose content across platforms, form factors and business models, will be key.

In other words, while they started from different places both presentations said we are at the pivot point in a mobility driven revolution and that HTML5 for a variety of business opportunity and technology reasons will quickly emerge as the master of this universe.

As with all revolutions, the path forward will not be easy nor will it be without very heated controversy despite the goal of a universal development platform that is company and mostly stack agnostic. Just a few things stirring passions in the DevCon5 presentations and halls, and in blogs and other commentary on the web include, just as a sample:

  • Native apps versus web, which is really a better experience?
  • How will native and web-based apps interoperate based on technical and business considerations?
  • What is the roll of the browser and will there be differentiated value in one vs. another, especially as to their support of HTML5?
  • What are the relationships likely to be between app stores which get a percentage vs. using the web to bypass the gateway/gate keepers? What should developers and content publishers consider when choosing what is best for their business?
  • What about security of devices and the multiple identities of users?
  • Where do enterprise IT people play in all of this?
  • Which ecosystem — Apple (News Alert) iOS, Android, Windows or other — will do what with or against HTML5 to solidify its position?

Every day brings a rush of HTML5 news. Rightfully so. This is not the next big thing. It is as the presenters each in their own way validated, is the current big thing. Former Sun Mircosystems CEO Scott McNealy — who coined the phrase “write once, run anywhere” (also access anywhere) vision for Java back in the late 1990s —must be proud. The vision was sound, and JavaScript is a central player as the drama about how fast we fulfill the promise of HTML5 unfolds.

The good news is while interest is already high, we are just getting warmed up. We invite you to follow TMCnet’s continued coverage of DevCon5 in the coming days in the form of articles, blogs and even some video. And, make sure you bookmark our HTML5 Global Online Community.

As a recent post was titled, “The Revolution (NewsAlert) will be on Twitter!” This was a reference to politics. It is going to be more than politics and it will be on much more than Twitter. See you on the HTML5 mobile Internet.

Peter Bernstein is a technology industry veteran, having worked in multiple capacities with several of the industry’s biggest brands, including Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent (News Alert), Telcordia, HP, Siemens, Nortel, France Telecom, and others, and having served on the Advisory Boards of 15 technology startups. To read more of Peter’s work, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves


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