Up until roughly about now, HTML5 has been a theoretical debate about an emerging set of standards for defining the next generation of Web applications.
Like most debates over standards, HTML5 draws a lot of interest from vendors as part of their general efforts to deposition one another. For example, Apple wants to reduce the influence of Adobe in the Web developer community by promoting HTML5 as an alternative to Flash. Now Microsoft is signaling its intent to support some form of the HTML5 standard, although probably with some Silverlight extensions attached.
But the reason that HTML5 will matter more in 2011 has nothing to do with vendor politics. Instead, application developers are being confronted with a new landscape. In order to achieve maximum distribution of their application across as many platforms as possible, most of them will turn to HTML5 in 2011 to accomplish that goal.
A good example of this trend is ClickSoftware, a provider of automated workflow management software. By definition these days, workers are accessing applications via multiple platforms. To make ClickSoftware accessible on those platforms, the company recently released ClickMobile Professional, which brings the company's application to a wide variety of mobile computing devices, including Apple iPad and iPhone systems and Google Android devices.
As a collaboration application, ClickSoftware CEO Moshe BenBassat, says it's critical for his company's application to run on as many platforms as possible. Given that goal and the current state of the application development landscape, HTML5 became the logical choice for building ClickMobile Professional.
There will still be some developers that will prefer the native environments of any number of platform-specific development environments. But economics usually trumps sentiment. So while HTML5 may not be fully baked just yet, the reality is that developers need HTML5 today to address the largest available market.
And as more developers wake up to that economic reality in 2011, we should begin to see a raft of HTML5 applications coming to market regardless of who says what about the relative merits of more robust development environments. After all, when push comes to shove, most developers are not going to want to limit the potential number of users of their applications no matter how cool they think a feature in any given development environment might actually be.