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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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Android – Balancing act between Smartphones and Tablets and platform fragmentation.

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Industry updates by Manas Ganguly on August 6, 2012

Platform fragmentation has been a pain point for Android and there is much less balancing the Android experience elements in terms of uniformity across its devices. The latest numbers from Android developers outline this pain area, as Android still struggles with 75% of its base in the Android 2.2 and Android 2.3 platform levels.

The other pain area that Android would like to put in order is the split of the screen sizes it works upon. 85% Android devices presently work on the 2″-4″ screen size – essentially the smart phones. Android is by and large less dese on the larger screen sizes.
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Source: Android developers data collected during a 7-day period ending on August 1, 2012

So you have it there – a fragmented platform and the inability to create a dent in the tablet space – even the 7″ space. That would be a bother for Android. (There is a base effect for the smartphone numbers, but Android’s ianbility to balance its smartphone and tablet numbers is the crux of this problem)

The future OS paradigm

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on June 6, 2012

Zach Epstein, exe. editor of BGR had an interesting set of observation on the OS triumverate and the Android growth story to end in 2012 as Microsoft begins to steal Google & Apple’s thunder. The basis is the IDC report which sees a shift in the OS ranking ladder with Microsoft Windows 8 scoring a few points at the expense of Apple iOS and Android.

While a brief summary of the IDC report is as given below, the facts and the findings are not much changed. Smartphones are expected to grow albeit a slow trot given the increasing base. Feature phones will register declines pulling down the industry numbers.

On the OS dominance, Android will remain status quo although Windows could ride its way past Apple into what could be a second life for Microsoft post PC era. Legacy systems will provide Microsoft the traction in the market. 

 

Reflecting further, what could really influence the tables by 2016 is cross platform play – TV, mobile, car. For some time now Android and iOS focus has been to shift into other platforms which will augment mobile and be driven by mobility. To me Android and iOS may slow down but they will diversify into these platforms which will rub off on the mobile numbers. Developers as well will see this as a unique opportunity for multi platform presence through the cloud. So while the triumverate theory still holds, what is interesting is how OSs will migrate across platforms and the experience factor. Android has a spot of bother on that and Apple is heads and shoulders above others. Ultimately it is the seamless play across different computing and content/consumption platforms which really will sway sway developer communities.Cross platform pressence, migration, experience and abilities will form the future of mobility.

Blackberry- I think that story is done and dusted.

Windows ARM Tablets limit Browser to IE: Return to the digital dark ages

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on May 13, 2012

Microsoft is well known as a competition-killer as it tries to kill competition by various means. After ending the legion of Netscape years ago, Microsoft is returning to “digital dark ages” by blocking browser choice on ARM version of Windows 8, dubbed Windows RT.

Mozilla and Google have accused Microsoft of banning third party browser from Windows 8 on ARM. There will have standard browser support in desktop edition of Windows 8, but the ARM version will be restricted to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer only. Mozilla is already working on a Metro-styled version of its Firefox browser and this decision is a huge blow to Mozilla’s plans.

“Unfortunately, the upcoming release of Windows for the ARM processor architecture and Microsoft’s browser practices regarding Windows 8 Metro signal an unwelcome return to the digital dark ages where users and developers didn’t have browser choices,” … Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s General Counsel

Microsoft is under fire from both Mozilla and Google. Mozilla accuses Microsoft of violation the browser choice rules set by European Commission (EC). Mozilla also reported in the post that Windows RT will have two environments – a Windows Classic environment and a Metro environment for apps.

In practice, this means that only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability, and security to which users have grown accustomed. Given that IE can run in Windows on ARM, there is no technical reason to conclude other browsers can’t do the same

Meanwhile, Chrome-makers Google also verified the issue. Like Mozilla, Google is also planning to launch Metro version of Chrome browser.

Google has also shared similar concerns regarding the Windows 8 environment restricting user choice and innovation. By locking the browser choice, Microsoft is limiting innovation in the browser space across all platforms.

Google and Mozilla accuse Microsoft of anti-competitive practice with the ARM-based version of Windows 8. The exclusion of browser choice is going to affect tablet users and if the problem is not handled, PC users may also enter a similar fate in future. Looking at declining market share of IE, Microsoft is planning to block competitors like Firefox, Opera and Chrome from Windows 8, but the decision will raise antitrust concerns.

Microsoft claims that it needs to restrict access to the desktop for security and performance reasons, and that’s why only a few apps get access to it, notably IE and Microsoft Office.

Thats a bit of unfair reasoning that Microsoft has put up there. After all, on Windows 8 for PCs, other apps are allowed to run on the desktop. It may be true that Windows RT hardware will be more susceptible to performance slow-downs than traditional Windows hardware, because RT hardware will generally have slower processors and less RAM. That won’t always be the case, though, because Windows 8 will run on netbooks, which typically have low-end hardware.

Another question that needs to be asked is Whether banning Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers from the RT desktop will make a difference to browser market share? AT the current rate, not many give much of a chance that Windows 8 tablets to make significant headway against iPads and Android tablets. And of the people who do use Windows tablets, only a very small percentage would likely switch their default browser, even if they had a choice. So in terms of market share, not allowing Firefox and Chrome on the desktop will barely register as a blip.

As for user choice, it would certainly be better if Windows 8 tablet buyers had more than one realistic option in browsers. But limiting browser choice is likely to hurt Microsoft more than help it.

 

Of Google, Android and a prune-down strategy

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems, Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on April 1, 2012

Google’s Android is going places, even while Apple holds on to 80% of the smartphone industry profits. Despite clocking an impressive growth worldover, Android’s worries are far from sorted especially when one considers that Android has not made anything close to a ripple (forget a splash) in the Tablet segments and the developer interest in the platform is eroding gradually. Android with its “open” mantra is now witnessing a bifurcation in its markets – the low cost Androids making rapid strides in market shares globally and the high end Samsung S3, HTC One, Moto Razr which are the flagship products. Interest in Android is now flagging because the hardware and software profiles for it are so fragmented.

The state of affairs at Android are an outcome of the way Google is positioning itself across domains. On Mobile domain, the success of Android is because of the fact that developers don’t want to be locked into Apple, which is why Google, limping social strategy and fragmented Android and all, remains a solid option. But Google is going to have to figure out who, exactly, it is, and why developers should care. It has billed itself as the open alternative to Apple’s and Facebook’s closed ways, but it needs to be more than open. It also needs to be good, and its history of product failures (Read Wave, Buzz) is worrisome.

There’s no doubt as to Google’s ambition. The company has been throwing itself into everything from flight search to payments. But adoption for these services,has been painfully slow. In sum, instead of putting faith in Google’s broad portfolio of services – social or otherwise – perhaps developers would be wiser to urge Google to focus on a narrower set of clearly defined, easily deployed services.

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Is Android the key to everything “smart”?

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on February 9, 2012

We spend a lot of time talking about operating system market share and usage share, but could Android explode to the point where it make such data irrelevant?

When we talk about Android market/usage share, we’re usually thinking about devices like smartphones and tablets. It seems that knowing how many people use a particular thing is important to some people (I’m not sure why, maybe it helps people think they’ve made the right choice or something). But Android isn’t confined to just smartphones and tablets. Chances are that if you have a gadget like a personal media player or an ebook reader or an in-car GPS receiver, it’s powered by Android. It might not say Android anywhere, and people might not know that it’s Android, but it’s there nontheless.

Android is already all around us, and pretty soon the OS is going to be in a whole lot more places. The next device that Android is set to invade is the TV set. Given the operating system’s heritage in media it seems like a good fit. It’s going to take a long time for people to replace their dumb TVs with Android-powered ‘Smart TV’ sets, but it will happen (people on the whole seem to keep their TV sets for a lot longer than they do cellphones, tablets and PCs).

The TV is just the start of things in my opinion, and it’s the beginning of an in-home Android revolution. As the price falls on low-power computers it becomes feasible to fit make things ’smart’ … smart oven, smart microwave, smart refrigerator, smart washing machine. smart thermostat. Heck, why not go the whole hog and have smart lights and smart doors too?

Smart devices are the next step in evolution for devices that have traditionally been dumb devices. And one of the keys to making dumb devices smart is the a flexible operating system.

Android offers just that.

Note: One company is going to absolutely love it if Android is everywhere … Microsoft. The Redmond giant already pulling in millions every year from patent deals struck with smartphones and tablets makers.

I can see Android in other places too … watches (now there’s something that needs revolutionizing), cars, binoculars, telescopes, home automation devices, remote controls and much more. Android’s power is its versatility, and it is that versatility that allows the platform to be customized and tweaked for a whole variety of applications. It’s because of this that I see an explosion in Android usage over the next few years.

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The end of Windows Start Button era!

Posted in Computing and Operating Systems by Manas Ganguly on February 7, 2012

Goodbye Start button!

The bottom left corner of the Microsoft machines have for 17 years housed the Start button : The console of the modern Microsoft computing machines. Microsoft first used the Start button in Windows 95, when it reportedly paid the Rolling Stones millions for the rights to the band’s song “Start Me Up” to use at the launch and in subsequent commercials. Windows 95 debuted in August 1995, and was marked by a dramatic overhaul of Windows 3.1’s user interface.

With Windows8, Microsoft is discarding the start button in favour of a “Hotspot” area in the corner that when touched or clicked switches between the traditional desktop and the new Metro-style Start display. When that invisible hotspot is touched or clicked, the interface switches from desktop to Metro, or vice versa.

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