Mobile developers write for a number of different platforms, so assessing surveys of their desires and lists of which platforms they are using is a bit tricky. It is not as if they must choose one.
It is clear, however, that HTML5 is growing in popularity. The great selling point of mobile apps written with the Hypertext Markup Language is that it is agnostic as to the underlying operating system. An iPad as well as an Android device are equally at ease with HTML. The latest version of the language, HTML5, offers enough functionality to make it a significant player.
ReadWrite reports that VisionMobile’s Developer Economics report found that HTML5 is used by 52 percent of developers, but that it “hardly tops anyone’s list of priorities.” This suggests that it is fulfilling a utilitarian role:
Though a recent Sencha survey finds that more than 60% of mobile developers have migrated to HTML5—75% of those people expect to do even more with HTML5 in 2014—those developers’ motivations may be somewhat pedestrian. With the median developer supporting five different device types, HTML5 is more necessity than priority in a multi-device world.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) certainly sees it that way. It has released an open letter, co-signed by 17 companies, from Google to the New York Post, urging advertisers to take advantage of HTML5 for mobile ads:
To guarantee the ads you pay for actually appear and look great on all screens, you should insist to your ad agencies that your advertising creative be developed in a mobile-compatible format. And the one open, industry-standard, universal format for building mobile-ready creative is HTML5.
Business Insider, in an item hyping its report on HTML5, laid out some of the reasons it believes the platform will “eventually begin to win ground against native apps” and thrive. The item cites three positives and one negative. The pros: HTML5 offers the possibility of writing once for all operating systems, the feature gap that had held it back is dissipating, and developers have used it often enough to push it to third after iOS and Android. The negative is that the path to monetization still is unclear.
Nick Heath at ZDNet led off his report on the VisionMobile research by highlighting the report’s conclusion that HTML5 has moved ahead of iOS in South Asia, South America, the Middle East and Africa. Combined with the common wisdom that the focal point of mobile device growth is shifting to developing economies, it is a strong indication that HTML5 is on the ascendency.
Not everyone is bullish on HTML5, though. Indeed, a Forrester research paper laid out a strong case against the HTML5 platform. InfoWorld’s Serdar Yegulalp summed up the findings:
Mobile HTML5 apps are known to be slower than native mobile apps. Some of this is due to delayed updates or bugs in stock browsers on mobile platforms. And while some mobile OSes (Firefox OS, Tizen) are built with HTML5 at their core, they're either too sluggish overall or too poorly adopted to be much of a development consideration. Also, other research has shown that developer interest in HTML5 has slid, with the general consensus that HTML5 is best for a small subset of apps (such as internal line of business).
At this point, it seems only fair to say that the jury still is out on HTML5. The general sense, though, is that it will be a significant factor going forward. The question is whether it will work as elegantly as proprietary platforms or be a necessary, albeit somewhat weaker, plan B.