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Summarily weighing on HTML5 and Native Apps – The pros and cons!

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 22, 2012

A native mobile app can produce the best user experience — fast and fluid, can give user the best access to device features, and can be discovered in the app stores. Thus, Native apps are powerful tools providing publishers with a secure way to sell their content, enhanced with rich media and very cool features, online or off. On the other hand, building a native app on every major platform requires more socialized skills, a longer time to market, and a bigger budget to build and maintain. For this reason many apps get built as web app. Secondly, the money the developers save in discoverability, marketing and selling their apps (through the convenience of app stores) is now being spent on developing different apps for every different platform and paying through the nose for the privilege of selling their content in ecosystems like iTunes. Third and the worst part of it is the loss of their customer data in these walled ecommerce-enabled gardens.

A mobile web app can produce a good user experience that is consistent across a broader range of platforms. As browser and JavaScript engines get faster with every release, the user experience gets better and better and the apps run faster and faster. Once created, this kind of app can be run on any platform, device, phone, or tablet with a browser. Thus, the HTML5 scores on the following parameters
• Delivers a consistent look and feel across all devices and browsers
• Offers much lower development costs than native apps
• Erases the lengthy process of submitting an app and waiting for approval by a 3rd party
• Updates web apps immediately across all platforms without the need for users to download and install the latest updates for each platform
• Has no walled ecosystem which overtaxes publishers and restricts their access to customer data
On the other hand, browsers on different platforms do not uniformly support all the latest HTML features and API, which can make developing and testing challenging.

A hybrid app offers many of the advantages of both approaches: discoverability in the app stores, access to the most common device APIs, and broad device coverage while not requiring the specialized skills, bigger budgets and longer time to market that are more typical of fully native apps. The hybrid approach seeks to blend the flexibility found in HTML5-based apps with more complex, native mobile apps into one platform.

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HTML5 – Future complete! (Part III) Native Apps versus HTML5

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 20, 2012

This is third of a series of blog posts on HTML5. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

In part II of this series, we have seen how network effects (distribution),economics and Developer skills load the discussion in favour of HTML5 over Native Apps. However a few critical features of Native Apps need to be taken in consideration

Experience and Customized Apps (Advantage Native Apps)
The one big drawback of Web apps is that they can’t take advantage of a device’s hardware specifications- Web based HTML5 will essentially lose some benefits of the customized device firmware to gain a wider traction across all devices. The Native Apps in the mean time will enjoy breadth of device capability, and full access to the underlying mobile platform within its eco-system device but will be short in width of devices being covered. Functionality is the key – Apps that donot use a lot of the hardware features and are more on the broadcast mode are more likely to benefit from HTML5 – as against App which serves the experience and inter-activeness up. A tighter integration of the Native apps with the device and its features is more handy in delivering better web based experience. A case in point would be the integration of voice assistant feature such as Siri in the Apple eco-system. With Javascript engines getting faster, mobile web apps perform better but still lag behind the native app performance.

Many business applications do not necessarily require the levels of performance that Native Apps can provide. In these cases, Web and Hybrid apps are more cost effective, efficient and dynamic due to API adaptability.

However, HTML5 would democratize web experiences, device makers will seek tricks to make an application more engaging and attractive on their platforms. They would like Applications which would do justice to the high end configurations of their devices. Native Apps does just that effectively.

Competition leveling (Advantage HTML5)
A move toward HTML5 would be good news for BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, webOS licensor Hewlett-Packard, Intel (Tizen) and Microsoft, which are all lagging well behind Apple and Google in the number of applications available in their app stores.

Monetization (Advantage Native Apps)
Native apps come with one-click purchase options built into mobile platforms. HTML5 apps will tend to be monetized more through advertising, because payments will be less user-friendly.

The Figure below captures the difference between HTML5 and Applications based approaches on other auxilliary factors-
Apps vs HTML5

So then, HTML5 would be like the state highway for all and sundry – delivering a base level internet experience on all knids of devices. However there would be many and more who would like to be pampered with better and higher degree of device experience. There’s a lot to watch out for – especially Apple. Google meanwhile seems to be able to find the balance between the HTML5 web and the App-web. Contrary to popular beliefs, the discussion between HTML5 and Native App doesn’t need to essentially produce a winner or a looser – it may yet produce a third result altogether – Hybrid apps. And many are betting on it.

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HTML5 – Future complete! (Part II) Native Apps versus HTML5

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 18, 2012

Continued from earlier post

The key to HTML5 is that it delivers in-the-browser experiences that previously required standalone apps.

Now, apps can run in the browser window and will be independent of iTunes or Android app stores. That’s a sea change that could reshape the app landscape. HTML5 supports video, offline reading, touch and gestural interaction — all functions that, until recently, were only available for mobile devices on native apps. Thus there are many who debate that the age of native Apps is over and HTML5 will triumph Native Apps in a big manner. In the next few posts, I would be looking at different aspects of the HTML5 web as against the Native App as a comparison.

native-vs-html5

Distribution (Advantage HTML5)
So, why is HTML5 such a big thing? For starters, Simplicity is one key reason. Developing native apps for lots of different environments is a huge amount of work. There is an ongoing overhead for maintaining all the apps (on different platforms), which means everything needs to be done five or six times. HTML5 seemed to be the solution. For content owners, publishers, brands or simply developers – BlackBerry, Apple, Android, Windows, and webOS device owners would all use one single app that only needed to be developed once. Thus HTML5 will allow developers to gain a lot more scale and reach without making the same investment in each platform. Native apps are distributed through app stores and markets controlled by the owners of the platforms. HTML5 is distributed through the rules of the open web: the link economy. It doesn’t need to be published to any store, because it is simply accessed by its URL in the browser or an app icon/bookmark on the home screens.

Even though the notion of “build once, run everywhere” sounds very nice, differences in mobile browsers and support for the latest HTML5 features will require extensive testing and possibly coming up with workabouts.
Fragmented support for and limited APIs within HTML5 make the “write once, run everywhere” strategy extremely difficult.

Platform Power and Network Effects (Advantage HTML5)
Also the economics of the App business is undermining. Apple and Google currently take upto 30% cut of the revenue from app sales. Financial Times for instance has to share 30% of its revenue ($4.99 per week for app access to its content). Similarly Amazon is keen on the HTML5 development simply because it reduces deployment strangleholds that Apple has on the kindle app on its devices in terms of revenue sharing.The HTML5 development would be a way to escape those strings and opting for a app-free approach to mobile content.

Development Skills (Advantage HTML5)

Building native apps requires strong skill sets in Objective C, Java and C#. Finding developers with necessary experience is not an easy task. On the other hand web applications are being built for a better part of 2 decades and it requires HTML, Javascript and CSS which are relatively abundantly available skills. Thus Democratization of HTML5 doesnot just find the auspices of economics but also of developer capabilities and competencies.

Comparison between Native Apps and HTML5 to be continued in Part III of this series of posts

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HTML5 – Future complete! The next generation web starts. (Part I)

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on December 17, 2012

Worldwide Web consortium (W3C) has issued a communication citing that HTML5, which will power the next generation of websites and smart-phone apps, is now Feature complete.Even while there’s still some testing to be done, and HTML5 hasn’t yet become an official Web standard — that will come in 2014 – there’s a huge buzz around HTML5 as the future of web technology. What W3C’s dictate also means is that, there won’t be any new features added to HTML5, which means Web designers and app makers now have a “stable target” for implementing it. New Additions if any will now happen on the HTML5.1 version.

HTML5

HTML5 language lets developers deliver in-the-browser experiences that previously required standalone apps or additional software like Java, Adobe’s Flash or Microsoft’s Silverlight. Essentially what that means is being platform agnostic. It will support video and geo-location services, offline tools and touch, among other bells and whistles. Coupled with the iPV6 standards, HTML5 can now be programmed and used to reach smart phones, cars, televisions, e-books, digital signs, and devices not yet known. The latest versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari are already compatible with most HTML5 elements.

HTML5 has been in development for a better part of the decade now and is now quickly on its way to becoming the de-facto web standard. And since Internet now has more than many mediums of delivery, this means that there is a face-off against the Application heavy internet access that we have seen in the last 3-4 years. The advantage delivered is that developers will not have to make changes to multiple versions of its code on multiple smart-phone platforms and can instead bank upon one mobile website to deliver experiences. Google, Netflix, Mozilla are already building on the HTML5 platform. Interestingly enough, HTML5 has been acknowledged as the best solution even by companies such as Adobe and Apple. Adobe lost its cash cow Mobile Flash software and the Apple “walled garden” apps empire is in direct collision course with HTML5. After all HTML5 aims to democratize the web experiences, whereas Apple has always sought a premium basis the experience factor which is tightly knit into the device firmware and experience enablers.

W3C is now working on cementing HTML5 as a new Web standard, making it interoperable and fully supported by any modern browser.

In the next couple of posts, we would split the game between HTML5 and Applications based internet and consider the pros, cons and benefits of each of them on different parameters. Read Part II and Part III of this post.

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Where did Sony Loose its Mojo?

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 15, 2012

Sony-Xperia-Yuga

As I write this post, I am aware of a considerable hype and excitement that has been created by Sony Experia C660 Yuga Smartphone- 5” Full HD display, Glass Back, Android 4.1.2, Samsung Exynos 5 Quad Core processor, 3GB RAM, 128GB Storage, 16MP Camera and more. Sure that’s excitement- its closer to a laptop than a smartphone and sure that’s big- But I am really not sure –if that enough to get Sony back in the game. Here’s why-

Sony- Brands

Back in 2005-08, Sony (Then erstwhile Sony Ericsson) was big in devices- the 4th or the 5th in terms of device volumes and revenues, 2nd or 3rd on Profits and an enviable leadership in ASP. As if that wasn’t good enough Sony had a real plan to leverage its other sub brands – Walkman, Cybershot, Handycam, Playstation, Bravia, Sony Pictures, VAIO and Sony Music. Sony thus had enviable stakes in Music, Video, Imaging, Gaming, Computing, Content (both movies and Music) and LCD screens. In 2007, that kind of a portfolio was something that even a Apple couldnot think of for itself. Sony needed Brand extension of its venerable consumer brands into mobility and many believed that Sony had the secret sauce … except that the secret sauce did not happen. In 2009, Sony launched its last big sub brand- Xperia which would stand for its line of smartphones and one hoped that Xperia would marry the Sony heritage of consumer durable brands – 3 years on, the promise is un-fulfilled and Sony is fast fading into “has been” territory in smartphones.

Sony

Where did Sony Loose it? Like Nokia, it misread the writing on the wall as a war of features. It did not recognize the importance of putting all this together on a platform and innovate on the platform – something that Apple and Google pioneered with their App stores. Instead it played the marksmanship on device features bettering one sec with another and still with other. The most appalling realization is that Sony hasn’t still done anything to leverage these sub-brands to build a proposition in Mobility even now. That’s where Sony Experia C660 Yuga Smartphone comes in. All hardware, device and specs – no real platform innovation.

Sony has to get its content platform strategy in place – to really cause a dent in the device space. However, I don’t see a platform play happening at Sony which is a little sad given that there is very little profit pool left to maneuver only on the basis of devices. Neither has Sony been able to leverage its sub brands positively to create compelling propositions.

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The vanishing readers and Amazon kingship in Publication Industry

Posted in Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on December 14, 2012

The EBook reader space is fading out rather precipitously.The rapid growth—followed by the immediate collapse—of the ebook market is virtually unheard of, even in the notoriously short life cycle of products inhabiting the volatile consumer electronics space.

sai-cotd-121312-1
Source: SAI Chart of the Day

In 2011, dedicated ebook readers saw shipments of 23.2 million units which dropped a whopping 36% to 14.9 million units in 2012, as reported by iHS iSuppli. Furthermore, the numbers are forecasted to drop by 27% in 2013, to 10.9 million units.By 2016, this number would have dropped to 7.1 million units less than 1/3rd of the 2011 volumes.

open-book-on-top-of-pile-of-books

While these are just estimates, the trend is clear: dedicated ebook readers are going to die a quick death. After all, with tablets being able to do more than these one-trick ponies, it’s completely expected.

Yet, Amazon mopped up record number of EBook sales, in CyberMonday 2012.This is a counter-trend given the damning numbers reported by iHS iSuppli. Sure – the pricing starting from $69 for Kindle is a coup. But Amazon is able to deliver such numbers only basis the pricing subsidy enabled by the sales of Ebooks – Pure eco-system play. Thus what looks to me as happening in the next year or two is that Amazon will monopolize the EBook numbers which will be an extremely large bargain power for Amazon versus publishers. Amazon looks to be uniquely capable of becoming the “lord & master” of the book-publication industry – both in digitized and paper format.

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In Midst of Transition- Adobe Systems (Part II)

Continued from Part I

If the early results are any indication, Adobe, has become a model for companies coping with tech’s changing landscape. But the Business transition is easier said – Adobe will have to navigate the rise of cloud, Mobility, social media and highly targeted online advertising. It also pits Adobe against some very well entrenched competition – Microsoft and Apple in productivity programs, IBM and Google in digital marketing.

adobe_cloud
Image Courtesy Fortune

Adobe’s move into digital marketing- which has its roots in the acquisition of Omniture, a web analytics company in 2009 is an equally adroit move. The second leg of Adobe’s strategy re-orientation includes data driven marketing – real-time bidding on Google search ads, targeting display ads using Facebook profiles, analyzing which Tweets or blog posts drive traffic, testing different site designs to see which generate sales. To make those features possible, Adobe has spent $800 million in the last 3 years on acquisitions since Omniture: Day Software for website-content management, Demdex for ad targeting, Efficient Frontier for search and social media ad exchanges, and Auditude for inserting ads inside streaming videos. According to Gartner, marketing budgets will grow 9% this year, compared with 4.7% for IT. Adobe wants to benefit from that growth by selling marketing services and software simultaneously. Thus, Adobe tools once relied on just for creating a website, have become much more useful as a digital marketing suite.

Death of Adobe Flash

Still, Adobe’s marketing push means going up against deep-pocketed companies like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google — all of which are more experienced in the enterprise software market. The next year or so will be critical for Adobe as it changes tracks and dons a new gear. It is a risk but then its vastly better than waiting for the emminent death of Adobe Flash.Adobe’s post-Flash strategy was announced in November 2011, alongside the restructuring that made digital marketing and Creative Cloud the company’s top priorities Adobe saw the writing on the wall and conciously anchored itself on the Creative Cloud and Digital Marketing as the next streams of business. Now we await the new Adobe!

In Midst of Transition- Adobe Systems (Part I)

In the age of Cloud,Mobility,Social Media and altering business models,Companies that simply try to preserve the status quo will fail – Inspired

Adobe is the midst of transition would inspire many a case studies. A company that epitomized Shrink Wrapped High Quality Software is working on complete re-doing of its business and revenue models with an eye on the future. Historically, Adobe has been a productivity suite company with its software being centred around enterprises, film-makers, webmasters and content creators and it has done well till recent times. Not wishing to be caught on the wrong foot holding on to status quo, Adobe has readied and implemented a radical change in its business model- It has embraced the cloud based distribution and digital marketing and is phasing out the CD based version of “pay beforehand $1400-$2400” software distribution to Software in the cloud, monthly subscription service. This sachet service works three ways – It steadies revenue per month, it reduces piracy (Adobe was losing a reported $1bn to piracy of its software) and it also increases penetration (The move to subscriptions is a clever and thoughtful way to lower the price point). This model works on a $20-$50 subscription model – and this would bring 325K subs by end of 2012 as per Adobe. Lready Adobe has a million free memberships on its Cloud.The current onboarding rate is 11K per week. Overall average revenue per user is 20% higher compared with the old product. That number will rise even further, the company says, because it is much more likely to sell support services, website hosting, or server management to cloud customers. Already Adobe is augmenting its cloud product by addition of features and functionalities such as Creative Cloud for teams, making it easy (collaborate effort); Adobe Muse (For creation of Mobile websites); Creative Cloud Connection for desktop synching and collaborative sharing;Creative Cloud Training; and demonstrating the unlimited access to the Digital Publishing technology used by major publishers to create interactive content for the smartphones and tablets.

Adobe

Sure this audacious moved spooked the stock which lost steam in 2011 but it is back in action and has traced a healthy recovery. The stock is way behind its historic highs of $47.9- however at $35.5 it is trading 47% above its 2011 trough of $24.17. Even while the stock is underperforming as per analyst’s expectations- the 3Q, 2012 profits have reversed a trend of 3 quarters of dipping profits. In the most recent quarter, profit increased by 3.2% year-over-year. Looking back further, profit dropped 2.4% in the second quarter, 21.1% in the first quarter and 35.4% in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year. The turnaround seems to be working for Adobe and we would get to know more about this in time. As for the shift from boxed software to subscriptions: It is far from over. In fact, it is the company’s greatest source of uncertainty.

This Post is continued in Part II

Its a world of smart connected devices!

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 11, 2012

As per the latest reports from IDC, Global market for Connected and Smart devices grew 27.1% YoY in Q3,2012 to 303.6 million units, valued at $140.4 billion. Shipments will continue to reach record levels in Q4 2012, rising 19.2 per cent from the 3Q, 2012 figure and 26.5 per cent above 3Q, 2011. IDC expects sales of 362 million units with a market value of $169.2 billion in the final quarter, with tablet sales up 55.8 per cent and smartphones up 39.5 per cent, while PCs are expected to show small declines. Samsung maintained the top position with a 21.8 per cent market share while Apple help 15.1 per cent based on unit shipments. But Apple led all vendors in value with $34.1 billion in quarterly sales and an average selling price of $744 across all device categories. The difference in the ASPs (average selling prices) Of Samsung and Apple, is a telling sign of different market approaches. The fact that Apple’s ASP is $310 higher than Samsung’s with just over 20 million fewer shipments in the quarter speaks volumes about the premium product line that Apple sells. Having said that, there is also a risk that Apple could get relegated to a minority market, just the way Windows95 out-marked Apple OS in the mid 90s.

Smart Connected Devices by product Category - IDC

In terms of shipments, Lenovo ranked third with seven percent of the market, followed by Hewlett-Packard (4.6 percent), and Sony (3.6 percent). IDC expects the worldwide smart connected device market will hit 2.1 billion units in 2016 with a market value of $796.7 billion worldwide. In 2011, PCs accounted for 39.1 per cent of this market but by 2016 it is expected to drop to 19.9 per cent. Smartphones will be the top product category with share growing from 53.1 percent in 2011 to 66.7 per cent in 2016 and tablets will grow from 7.7 per cent in 2011 to 13.4 per cent in 2016. The advent of cloud-based services is enabling people to seamlessly move from device to device, which encourages the purchase and usage of different devices for different situations.

Smart Connected Devices - IDC

The shift in demand from the more expensive PC category to more reasonably priced smartphones and tablets will drive the collective market ASP from $534 in 2011 to $378 in 2016. While, IDC hasn’t provided a breakdown by operating system, Android with its mass-market devices with prices trending towards $100 or less will continue to take a majority share in smart devices.

Is Apple Lapsing into the Ordinary (Part II)

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 10, 2012

Over the last few months now, Apple has been behaving like the big daddy – reminiscent of Microsoft in the 2000-10 decade. Firstly, there is the push into patent led legal processes with Samsung; then the whole act of reducing supplies of the Samsung chips and then there is the whole maps fiasco for which Tim Cook has also had to apologize in public. Apple’s push to pack all of its eco-system in its walled garden is becoming a bad press issue. The latest being the Map application errors which has led Australian Police to issue a warning on use of the Apple Maps application in North West Australia categorizing the app as “Potentially Life Threatening”. The latest map glitch puts motorists 70 kms off from where they are supposed to be.

Again then – the question that arises- Post the Jobs era, Is Apple lapsing into the ordinary?

iSolated: Bad Apple Maps directions lead to desert
Apple Maps glitch could be deadly: Australian police
Apple’s Australia map glitch: Snakes! In the desert!

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