November 04, 2013

Are Mobile Browser Inadequacies Holding HTML5 Apps Back?

With HTML5’s latest advances, primarily in the areas of animation and video, many are reconsidering how Web apps may affect the mobile app ecosystem going forward. HTML5-based apps may challenge native app dominance, but there are still some hurdles to overcome before this can become reality. This is a fact even HTML5 proponents can’t — and, quite honestly, shouldn’t — ignore.

Christian Heilmann, Mozilla (NewsAlert) developer evangelist for HTML5 and the open Web, recently acknowledged this at the Samsung Developer Conference. He specifically pointed out that the inadequacies of mobile browsers are holding back HTML5’s mobile potential.

“This is the big problem,” said Heilmann in a statement. “The mobile environments that we have right now like iOS and Android (NewsAlert) treat HTML5 as the red-headed stepchild in the basement.”

He went on to single out the stock iOS browser, Safari, and the stock browser that comes with older versions of Android ad the primary culprits. In terms of Android, though, Heilmann doesn’t believe the blame lies with Google (News Alert) so much as it does with hardware vendors that are more interested in selling new hardware than updating the browsers of older devices.

That said, the situation isn’t terrible as the Tizen OS, an open source mobile effort being led by Samsung and Intel (News Alert), treats HTML5 with the respect it deserves, meaning Web apps will run superbly on it. Likewise, Mozilla’s own HTML5-based mobile platform, Firefox OS, offers similar handling of the standard, as does Google’s Chrome OS.

But in a world dominated by iOS and Android — recent data from comScore puts the two at a combined market share of 91 percent in the U.S. — it’s hard for HTML5 developers to take much solace from this.

Some disagree with Heilmann’s assessment, though, according to InfoWorld. In particular, Forrester Research (News Alert) analyst Jeffrey Hammond stated that users replace their phones often enough that older Android browsers will soon be a thing of the past.

Edited by Alisen Downey


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