February 11, 2013

Hybrid Applications’ Growth in Popularity Expected to Continue

Hybrid applications, a combination of native code and HTML5, have become the dominant force in app development – a trend that is expected to continue for the next few years. One of the biggest reasons for this growth is the portability that HTML5 brings to cross-platform development.

Native applications are executables that run on a given device. They’re closely tied to the underlying operating system, so to develop an app for Android (NewsAlert) and iOS requires two different sources built from the ground up.

The economics of mobile device app development dictates that developers support a cross platform approach, so developing separate native apps for each OS is usually not an option.

According to an article at, industry research firm Gartner (News Alert) expects explosive growth in the mobile app market. Over half of the mobile app market will consist of hybrid apps.

The use of HTML5 allows app developers to create part of their apps to be platform independent. As a standardized language, anything developed in HTML5 should appear and behave the same way whether it’s on an Android, Blackberry, Microsoft (News Alert) Phone or iOS.

This saves significant time from an application development standpoint, as the HTML5 part of the hybrid app only has to be written once.

Unfortunately, there is no getting around the native application disadvantages. Many applications require functionality dependent on the operating system that HTML5 cannot deliver.

HTML5, in its own right, is a growing trend. A Business Insider article cites September 2012 statistics from a Kendo UI study showing significant HTML5 development with room for growth. Sixty-three percent of developers already develop with HTML5 and 31 percent plan to start using it.

Portable code has been attempted in the past, most notably with the C/C++ programming languages, which were designed for that purpose. C++, effectively a superset of C, has been defined according to an ISO/IEC (NewsAlert) standard since 1998.

The popularity of Windows stood in the way of C/C++ achieving the goal of portability in the PC environment. It took over 100 lines of C code to create a window that said ‘Hello World,’ which led to the growth of Visual Basic as the preferred application development tool for Windows PCs.

Once Windows became the dominant operating system in the PC market, there wasn’t any compelling reason for portability.

The mobile device market is different in 2013. With several different operating systems competing for market share, app developers that want their apps widely distributed must support at least some cross-platform development. Industry data suggests this will continue.

Application development has never been so wide open.

Edited by Braden Becker


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