March 18, 2013

Accounting Software Startup Xero Drops HTML5 for Native Apps

HTML5 continues to hit snags in its plans to develop HTML5 apps for mobile, with companies including Facebook (NewsAlert) and Xero opting for native apps instead.

As an accounting software startup, Xero does not have the same public face as Facebook, so the company revealed its decision in much less severe terms than Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg (NewsAlert) did.

HTML5 for mobile was set back significantly after Zuckerberg stated that “betting completely on HTML5 is one of the, if not the biggest strategic mistake we’ve made,” but Xero opted for a quieter announcement via a blog post.

The basic reason behind Xero’s switch is that the company feels the development of HTML5 for mobile Web apps was both too resource intensive and difficult to justify pursuing.

“The choice to go with HTML5 was very much a choice based on us–how do we use the skills we already have to build a mobile application? Unfortunately as the application grew we needed to hire to fill out the team, and we were never able to hire fast enough to fill those roles. Ironically those skills were equally as critical for the ‘desktop’ version of Xero – we were cannibalizing our own team and slowing everything down,” Xero explained in its “Making Mobile Work” post.

Although Xero is clearly more hesitant to criticize HTML5 in the way Zuckerberg did, the blog post does cast a negative light on Web apps in comparison to native apps, as well as brings up certain concerns that HTML5 mobile app supporters will not be happy about.

“We’ve found that building a complicated mobile application in HTML5 has been hard. Even with frameworks as amazing as Sencha Touch, we’ve found the ability to iterate as fast as we would like has become harder as our application has become more complex,” the blog continued.

Sencha has put up a strong defense against Zuckerberg’s scathing comments, so Xero’s praise of the company’s development tools will surely not go unnoticed.

In addition, Xero stated that it would continue to use HTML5 for its core app despite its disappointment, and that the company’s next release of Xero Touch will be built with native technologies.

The company also noted it has found that making this switch is the right choice, saying that using native instead of HTML5 “does feel better.”

As a result, the company is looking to hire a senior Android (NewsAlert) developer, and has recently recruited an iOS engineer to work on its new developments.

“The lesson we’ve learnt over the last 12 months has been that the cost in time, effort and testing to bring an HTML5 application to a native level of performance seems to be far greater than if the application was built with native technologies from the get-go,” the blog post concludes.

For more information on Xero’s integrated apps, visit

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo


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