August 09, 2012

HTML5 is Already Here and it is READY for Prime Time

A new Business Insider Intelligence research report, “How HTML5 Will Take Over Mobile Apps,” got us thinking today. Some folks believe that HTML5’s time has yet to come (though they don’t suggest it isn’t coming – and that is a fair opinion to hold); some vendors are eyeball deep into delivering substantial HTML5 platforms – take for example, Sencha and appMobi (NewsAlert); and some mobile app platform development vendors – Antenna, Verivo, Appcelerator, Kony come to mind as examples – already offer the full ability to tie HTML5 into the process of creating mobile apps or of delivering pure HTML5 apps.

The argument only exists in the minds of those that want to create or manufacture such arguments – and if such arguments happen to make good headlines on occasion, all the better. But in fact, we are now at the point where the debate is nothing more than one might have about whether or not, say, a Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera is better than an Aston Martin. It is a silly argument that boils down to personal preferences and nothing more.

In truth there is no such thing as an HTML5 app – all HTML5 apps consist of adding HTML5 tags and capabilities to tried and true JavaScript and CSS code. HTML5 does add some interesting capabilities –video (the key reason for the entire Apple (News Alert)-Adobe Flash kerfuffle) and the ability to offload data onto mobile devices so that applications (especially on tablets with Wi-Fi only connections) can operate locally (which is important when connections are lost, and which happens regularly even today) are but two good examples of what HTML5 brings to the table.

The reason that HTML5 is so important to the future of mobile apps is that these mobile “Web apps” will allow the same level of functionality using JavaScript, CSS (NewsAlert) and HTML5 that is now available through building applications in native languages (e.g. Java, C#, Objective C, and so on). There are valuable reasons to go the HTML5 route – here are just a few:

  • It turns out that native language developers are far, far more costly and far harder to come by than JavaScript developers, especially in the enterprise, where mobile apps are becoming all-important
  • HTML5 doesn’t merely “solve” the cross-OS issue (separate apps for Android (NewsAlert), Windows Phone 7/8, iOS), it eliminates the issue entirely. All HTML5 apps are inherently cross platform – period.
  • Today’s devices have numerous common capabilities that, for the most part, no longer require special device-centric native APIs to access – HTML5 centric platform vendors such as appMobi and Sencha have made great strides to deliver such access

Currently, it is also certainly possible to build “hybrid” mobile apps; these are apps that are built primarily on HTML5, but that include native APIs for accessing special and/or unique device capabilities. Hybrid apps are still necessary for some types of high end devices with unique features, but as the third bullet point above suggests, this is a quickly changing scenario. We absolutely believe that most users would not be able to pick out which is a native app and which is a well-designed HTML5 app, either through the UI or through actual use.

This is a point in the discussion to note that if readers are in disagreement with our points of view (either above or further down below), there is a perfect venue to share those disagreements coming up in early October – the HTML5 Summit- a DEVCON5 Event (collocated with ITEXPO West 2012), taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. Come on down and share your own perspectives! And get the deepest overall dive into HTML5 you can possibly find. And have some great BBQ while you’re Austin as well.

HTML5 Mumbo Jumbo

A recent Mashable article, “5 Reasons HTML5 Apps are Hard to Monetize,” (which we classify as one of those manufactured “headline” articles of the kind we note above) suggests the following:

  1. It is hard to discover where to get the apps
  2. Support is not just limited but can be almost impossible to obtain
  3. Advertising networks are in a nascent stage at best
  4. No, a standard HTML5 payment framework does not exist
  5. Yes, right now HTML5 apps are currently not in consumer’s comfort zones

The problem here is that none of the above has any relevance what so ever to anyone who might actually use an HTML5-build app – whether consumers or enterprise workforces. The point of HTML5 isn’t to create mobile applications that are advertised as being built on HTML5. Does anyone think this way (hey, SlashGear geeks, we’re not talking to you here) about any mobile apps (or any apps, mobile or otherwise really)? Does any user of Angry Birds sit and wonder what language the game is written in? The answer is a loud NO!

No one ever needs to discover an HTML5 app – if an app exists as such whoever wrote it will make it available for download and it will be discovered. Serious HTML5 developers already have significant support; if an HTML5 app requires support, it is no different than obtaining support for any other mobile app. Advertising networks can already do huge numbers of things with HTML5 as it currently exists. That advertising networks are (or may be) nascent is no more relevant to HTML5 apps than any other app.

For consumers, of course, it is easy for developers to basically create extremely simple native “discovery” apps for the Apple App Store or Google (News Alert) Play that do nothing more than send a user to the right place to download the real HTML5 app. And enterprises are now simply able to completely eliminate any need to include shell apps on either Google Play or the App Store by developing their own enterprise (or gaming or whatever) app stores – something that is exceedingly simple to do, and that many mobile dev app platform players – Antenna comes to mind as a great example – already deliver on.

The notion that HTML5 falls outside of the comfort zone of consumers is meaningless – users don’t think about HTML5 at all – there is no comfort zone to be outside of. Just as there are really badly designed native apps that consumers (and workforces) may choose to avoid, so will be the case for HTML5 apps – they either work well or they don’t because they are either beautifully designed or badly designed – HTML5 itself has nothing to do with this.

We don’t actually know what it means to claim that “an HTML5 payment framework doesn’t exist.” It is another silly statement.

HTML5 isn’t Ready to Roll, it’s Already Rolling

The HTML5 spec itself is a seemingly never ending work in progress that supposedly won’t be “completed” by some estimates until the end of the decade. But in fact there is more than enough to go on with the current iteration of the spec to build full, complete, and very powerful HTML5-based applications. The specification will no doubt grow to add additional capabilities; all this means is that there will always be next generation versions of today’s HTML5 apps.

HTML5 is here, and HTML5-built apps are no more difficult to monetize than any other app – hybrid, native or otherwise. It is time to get on board with HTML5. Enterprises should already be eyeball deep here. Consumer focused developers – especially those building high “twitch factor” games may still find themselves in need of using native-centric developer technology – but really, such use doesn’t invalidate today’s HTML5 readiness – if it can handle 80 percent of today’s mobile app development needs, it is already extraordinarily capable.

This is where we are today.

Want to learn more about HTML5? Then be sure to attend HTML5 Summit- a DEVCON5 Event, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. HTML5 has the potential to revolutionize user interfaces, challenge the status quo and change the future of both desktop and mobile web experiences. Join fellow web developers, designers, and architects, as well as technology leaders and business strategists who will gather in Austin to learn strategies and tactics to implement and execute HTML5. For more information on registering for the HTML5 Summit click here.

Stay in touch with everything happening at HTML5 Summit. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman


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