October 23, 2013

HTML5 and the Enterprise: Still Deeply Confused

It wasn’t so long ago—a little under a year ago, really—that many started asking the question of whether or not HTML5 was ready for enterprise use on any kind of wide scale. While back then HTML5 was still a young platform with many of its key specs only recently being nailed down, the picture several months later is that HTML5 does indeed have plenty of advantages and has made some important strides. But, there is still quite a bit of confusion in the market over just what can be done with this technology, and how it can be incorporated into normal operations.

A developer evangelist at Microsoft (News Alert), Martin Beeby, perhaps put it best when he said, “The overwhelming perception I get from customers is utter confusion about what they’re doing. If you pick a noun and add .js or .io, you’ll probably get a library. It’s extraordinarily confusing, and that’s the biggest problem.”

This sentiment was echoed elsewhere, particularly by those – like CTO of ShinobiControls at Scott Logic Colin Eberhardt – who note that corporations are used to technology solutions that come pre-packaged and ready to go. There isn’t much in the market, Eberhardt noted, as far as businesses that can offer one-touch solutions for HTML5 problems. Some, like David Akka of Magic Software, noted in November of 2012 that HTML5 would take between two and four years to reach the point where it was “a reliable development tool for the enterprise.”

Indeed, HTML5’s benefits have seemed to focus on the consumer so far. Netflix began the process of moving video from Microsoft Silverlight to HTML5 this year, and a host of new games began to emerge in HTML5 as a way to better take advantage of the growing proliferation of mobile devices. Though many quickly think of Mark Zuckerberg’s (NewsAlert) earlier remarks on HTML5, in which he described Facebook’s biggest mistake as putting too much into HTML5, it’s also worth noting that Zuckerberg also described plans to come back to HTML5 later, after the system had had a chance to grow and develop. Even Eberhardt made a point of pointing out that difference, suggesting that enterprises building apps in HTML5 should focus heavily on user testing and prototyping, saying, “The user experience is typically where HTML5 apps suffer.”

The advantages of HTML5 are still there. Rapid development is no less in play now than it was a year ago. Its ability to run on several different platforms—from tablets to televisions and beyond—is still there as well. There are even some suggesting that HTML5 apps may be able to challenge the native app’s control over modern devices before too much longer has passed.

HTML5 is offering some terrific advantages for users and developers alike, and though it’s not exactly clear how it can be useful in every situation, there’s certainly enough going on in the field to show that HTML5 both has a lot of value now and is likely to have a lot of value in the future. It’s all a matter of figuring out how best to bring this system into place, and though the best answer may be “not at all yet,” it almost certainly isn’t “not ever.”

Edited by Blaise McNamee


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