The Shared Future of HTML5 and Native Apps

Carl Weinschenk
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Enterprise Investment in Mobile Initiatives Is on the Rise

Percentages on the uptake of new technologies generally are misleading. A small base inevitably leads to huge percentage gains even if only moderate levels of success are reached.

That said, numbers from ABI Research reported last week on HTML5 browsers for mobile devices are impressive. The firm said that there will be an installed base of 1.4 billion at the end of the year. That will represent an increase of 87 percent compared to the number in use at the end of 2012, ABI said.

It is not that HTML5 will take over, however. ABI said that the native apps – those built on specific operating system platforms – will share the spotlight with those built using the HTML5 environment. ABI says that HTML5 uptake will begin to accelerate due to support being “baked deeper” into operating systems and greater support from hardware vendors.

The ABI research captures the question of the day for mobile developers. Now that HTML5 is coming of age, they will face big decisions on whether to use it on native platforms to make their apps. The Firefox OS relies on HTML5.

It promises to be a complex ongoing saga. HTML5 is said by critics to create apps that are inferior to native apps. Andreas Gal, the vice president of engineering at Mozilla, said in an interview with Know Your Mobile that HTML5-based apps are not inferior. They may, however, be getting shortchanged when they run on browsers that feature native apps:

HTML5-based applications don't offer sub-par performance. However, HTML5-based applications can offer sub-par performance on iOS and Android smartphones that are optimized for native iOS/Android applications instead of the Web.

In other words, the new approach will do fine if it is adequately supported. Matt Asay, the vice president of corporate strategy at open source database firm 10gen, wrote in a commentary at ReadWrite Mobile that the future for enterprises app development will be, in essence, a little bit of native and a lot of HTML5:

I spent Wednesday afternoon with a who's who of enterprise CIOs and CTOs in New York City, talking about Big Data, cloud and mobile. With the Facebook Phone in mind, I polled the group on its mobile applications. Every single executive - not one exception - was building hybrid HTML5 apps, meaning the bulk of the app is written in HTML5 with a native wrapper to improve performance, add camera access, etc.

How apps are put together is vitally important in terms of security, usability and customer reach. Enterprises should watch developments – especially the progress made by HTML5 – very carefully.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 23, 2013 3:43 PM Stefan S. Stefan S.  says:
I think that they future of mobile is in responsive design. Why would you want to spend so much money in maintaining native apps in Android, Blackberry, iPhone and who knows what next, and then on top of that maintain a site. It is not sustainable for most companies to have such big development teams. It is not realistic for that to go on. Responsive design provides a solid platform to develop for all devices in a single step. What do you think of responsive design as the future of mobile development? Reply

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