Mobile applications will increasingly define the user experience on high-end devices. Like most technological explosions, the infrastructure that enables users to perform fancy operations on their smartphones and tablets is progressing in an inconsistent and erratic manner.
Currently, of course, applications are written on mobile operating systems and are doled out to application stores. While this is a great area of differentiation between iOS, Android and the rest, it hardly is the most efficient way to approach the future. It is especially frustrating for developers, who must choose between operating systems or replicate their work across multiple platforms.
The much-discussed alternative is the mobile Web, an approach in which the heavy lifting is moved from the device and OS to the Web. Moving to a common platform always has made theoretical sense. Observers say that it won't become a practical idea until browsers have the capabilities to keep users happy by creating experiences that are as elegant and deep as those created on the OS.
Those capabilities are part of HTML5. MediaPost posted a story about the OMMA Global conference this week that, according to writer Mark Walsh, suggested that support for HTML5 is growing. Walsh suggests that today's Web is largely comprised of sites that are not optimized for the unique requirements of mobile devices, which re-emphasizes the focus on mobile apps. That could change, he writes, as the new version of HTML gains traction. Not only will browsers be more powerful, but sites will be friendlier to mobile endeavors.
It is quite a transition that, indeed, is under way. The New York Times Media Group SVP and Chief Advertising Officer Denise Warren said that the company is, according to Walsh, making a "big bet" by building core mobile properties with HTML5. Others are as well:
Thom Kennon, SVP, director of strategy, Y&R, noted that major publishers such as Meredith and Hearst are embracing HTML5 for their mobile initiatives. And fellow panelist Ashmeed Ali, who leads mobile research for Yahoo, attested to the Web portal's shift to the latest version of HTML for mobile sites and apps.
Another sign of the approach of HTML5 is its use by Facebook, one of the hottest properties on the Web. Macworld reports that the company used Faceweb, an HTML5 tool, to enable continual News Feed updates. The quote in the story from Erick Tseng, the company's head of mobile products, illustrates the buzz around HTML5:
"The reason we're so excited about Faceweb is because by using HTML5 instead of all native development it allows us to actually keep pace with desktop features," Tseng said. HTML5 is a standard Web development language that can bring many capabilities of native apps, including offline operation, to the Web.
Tom Krazit, writing at mocoNews, described the same kind of excitement at the recent HTML5 Dev Con this week in San Francisco. The interest stems from a recognition of the inherent inefficiencies of parallel platforms. HTML5 will continue to be the most logical answer. It will be interesting to see whether there are unforeseen obstacles - both technical and from members of existing ecosystems who fear losing clout - that slow its rollout.