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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.


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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