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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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Developer Interest in Android wanes as Hybrid Apps take over

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces by Manas Ganguly on March 20, 2012

HTML5 is taking over as the key enabler of Internet on mobile phones. The Internet of all things and cloud based convergence will be a key theme in this decade and it will be powered by a tight integration powered by APIs. The future will be about Platforms on which devices and services will be enabled will be powered by applications both native and web based. This post examines the platform, applications and developer intent.

A recent survey by Appcelerator finds that Apple iOS leads the developer interest charts with 89% intent. iPad comes a close second at 88%. On the Applications side, the loser is a very unlikely candidate: Android (79% on the Android phones,64% on the Tablets and 51% on the ICS platform). Appcelerator in its quarterly survey figures out that Android is gradually slipping down mobile programmers’ priority list, with HTML5 powered Web apps stepping in to as an answer to development difficulties. HTML5 ended up showing 67% positive intent from developers.

The wanning interest in Android platform is being attributed to the Fragmentation of the Android platform. The survey concludes that a lot of developers are unhappy with the fragmentation of the platform as well as the fragmentation of the monetization platform. Fragmentation impedes monetization on the Android platform. Customization for screen size, feature sizes, even skins that device manufacturers have put on top of that eats into resources allocation on the platform.

79% of developers think that HTML5 was going to be a component of people’s apps in 2012. Only 6% developers plan to make all-out Web app that runs in a browser; a much larger 72% plan a hybrid approach that wraps native interface elements around an app that relies on a browser engine behind the scenes. A hybrid has some native code on device, but content will be delivered via HTML.

For developers on open platforms it’s a tough line to walk. They want to have an open OS, but openness means they’re going to have fragmentation.

Web applications–those built with technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that run using a browser engine–answer at least some of Google’s fragmentation challenges.Web apps rose slightly to 67 percent, passing Android tablets in the last quarter. Thus HTML poses the answer to fragmentation.

The good news for Android is that even while it has suffered recent declines it fares much better than Blackberry (16% Developer interest) and Windows (37% developer interest).

The good news for Google is that developer interest is on a rise for Web-App hybrid environment like the one running on its Chrome OS and Chromebooks.

HTML5 – Future of the web (Losers offsetting losses) (Part III)

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on October 24, 2011

Read Part I and Part II here.

Apple has benefited from a similar monopoly, but on deployment. Capturing 30% of every application and piece of content sold to an iPhone or iPad user has become a multi-billion dollar business for the boys in Cupertino. With HTML5, an increasing amount of content, and eventually applications, will be able to circumvent the Apple bottleneck. The good news for Apple is that the advent of HTML5 may once and for all put their Achilles heel of not supporting Flash behind them. Apple has rushed to adopt HTML5 across its product line, and Steve Jobs was very direct and vocal that the combination of HTML5, CSS, and Javascript was far superior to Flash as far as Apple was concerned.

Apple’s rush to adopt HTML5 might seem to be at odds with what many financial analysts have described as the major threat HTML5 poses to Apple’s monopoly with the App Store. Apple has been tweaking its implementation of HTML5 in the Safari browser to limit some capabilities, like auto-play of audio and video, using customer satisfaction as the reason. Perhaps it’ll be able to continue to steer developers who want the ultimate experience on iPhones and iPads to continue to use the App Store, even if it’s just to sell wrapped versions of their HTML5 interfaces. In any case, Apple has certainly decided that it has more to gain from embracing the emerging HTML5 standard — growing the potential market for iPads and iPhones — and getting out of its morass with Flash, than it would by dragging its feet or proposing its own alternative. Complicating matters are some ongoing patent disputes between Apple and the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) — which drives standards for the web.

If Adobe and Apple are right in their public assessment of the opportunities which HTML5 presents them, then Microsoft may be the biggest loser — although even desktop vendors will benefit in some ways, as trendy web applications will be able to run on their machines, instead of being limited to tablets. Of the big loosers, is the web monopoly notably Microsoft. HTML5’s platform independence hits Microsoft where it hurts the most: Desktops and Desktop Applications. Obviously Microsoft isn’t standing still, so whether their share of internet-connected devices continues to slip — from 95% to 50% in the last three years — is open to debate, but the dominance will clearly erode, a trend likely to be accelerated by HTML5′s device-independent promise.
Revamping the web with an improved set of content protocols might really benefit everyone.

Clearly, though, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe have the most at risk, and could still turn out big losers on this one.

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HTML5 – Future of the web (Of Winners and Losers) (Part II)

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on October 19, 2011

Continued from earlier post

Mobile application developers will also benefit from having a consistent set of interfaces across their target platforms. Suffering currently from the high cost of developing for multiple platforms, as HTML5 is fleshed out with related technologies like WebGL and hardware device APIs they will increasingly be able to have a single source code base that can be deployed across a wide variety of mobile platforms. Third-party HTML5 frameworks like Sencha and Appcelerator already help make that possible.

Less obvious is the benefit HTML5 offers for mobile device vendors that are lagging in the war to gather applications. Many developers have ignored webOS and BlackBerry because of the high cost of developing a separate version of their applications. Running HTML5 will give those platforms a new lease on life — if webOS hasn’t completely disappeared by the time HTML5 has a chance to try and save it.
Amazon has been quick to realize the potential for HTML5 to unlock more content for its Kindle platform, announcing a new version of the Kindle e-Book format, KF8, that is based on HTML5, and an HTML5-based Kindle reader available on the web. What Amazon will lose in its proprietary lock on the Kindle format it is hoping to make up for with a surge of content suitable for its Kindle readers, resulting from the support of HTML5.

The Losers

From the outside the apparent losers from HTML5 would seem to be Adobe and Apple. Adobe has been king of the cross-platform development hill with Flash, where it has a near-monopoly on development tools. Adobe is quickly gearing up with an impressive set of similar tools for HTML5, but it won’t have the same monopoly position it enjoyed with Flash. Countering its loss of market share, the total market may expand exponentially as HTML5 is likely to experience dramatic growth for the forseeable future — and of course includes the iOS platform as a target, always a sticking point for Flash. In the long run Adobe believes it can use its broad suite of tools to continue to be the leader in standards-based web development tools — HTML5 or not.

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HTML5 – Future of the web (Of Winners and Losers)

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on October 17, 2011

HTML5 and the related technologies augmenting and complimenting it are set to modernize the technology of the web. HTML5 is an umbrella term that is often used to include HTML5 itself, plus scores of enhancements to programming and media control capabilities, but the technical changes are just the beginning of HTML5′s impact. What follows are the new capabilities which will be big changes in how money can be generated on the web. There are going to be both significant winners and losers.

Who Wins?

Content providers are the clearest winners from the widespread adoption of HTML5. Instead of having to develop dedicated applications for each mobile platform, to give their customers a compelling experience, they will be able to offer a single, HTML5-based offering that will run across desktops and mobile devices — greatly reducing their development costs.
• DirecTV has launched an HTML5 interface using cross-platform HTML5 framework Sencha, for example.
• Comedy news site The Onion was able to develop its tablet front end in only 6 weeks by relying on HTML5.

Even more important for content providers, making their sites available through HTML5 “web apps” can break the monopoly of app stores. Instead of paying Apple a 30% royalty on a magazine or newspaper subscription, for example, publishers can sell the subscriptions to customers directly — since they won’t need to have their applications distributed through an application store anymore. A simple web authentication of a subscription will suffice, and the web app would be available from any device that supports HTML5.
• The Financial Times has already gone this route, trumpeting the business value, and the added convenience of a single sign-on and consistent interface across platforms for consumers.

Also breathing a sigh of relief as HTML5 is adopted will be the developers of cloud-based software solutions. Box.net has already announced an HTML5 front end, as an alternative to running dedicated applications on each client platform. Other enterprise software vendors using the cloud, like Salesforce.com, aren’t far behind in adopting HTML5 as their client platform. Since the entire premise of the cloud is that everything should be available everywhere, it is only a matter of time before almost all cloud services veer towards HTML5 front ends to become universally accessible.

continued here

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Adobe readying its Plan A (Flash) and Plan B (HTML5) into future

Posted in Internet and Search by Manas Ganguly on September 27, 2011

Industries evolve, Industries mature and the products and technologies travel through their lifecycles through intriguing phases such as Question Marks to Stars to Cash Cows till the die out (The BCG way of explaining things).Heeding industry trends, companies are often forced to give up on once-premiere products and offerings in order to survive.

Examples abound: In Case of Nokia dropping the ageing Symbian for Wp in smartphones, IBM and HP spinning out its hardware business to focuss on software consultancy and Netflix splitting its DVD subscriptions into Qwikster and staking its future on streaming content.

However, there are cases where managers and boards stick on to old products and platforms and forget evolving to the new paradigms and then go out of business… the all familiar example “Frog in Burning Water” example.

A classic example is that of the Flash from Adobe. Adobe, which last week doubled down its efforts on Flash, releasing Flash Player 11, Air 3, and ramping up its 3D and HD support–even as many critics argue the industry is shifting away from Flash and toward HTML5. With such a disruptive technology as HTML5, at what point does Adobe give up on its flagship Flash product, which has long been Adobe’s bread and butter? At what point is Adobe stubbornly ignoring the writing on the wall?

Danny Winokur, Adobe’s VP and GM of Flash has no plans to give up on Flash. Publishers and content creators, he says, are still “really excited” about the technology. However, that doesn’t mean Adobe is rooting against HTML5–in fact, the company has heavily invested in HTML5 with its Edge suite of tools. That would mean that while Adobe is working at Flash, it is also building its bridge to the future paradigm. As for now, Adobe continues to drive innovation on both fronts [of Flash and HTML5]. Not everyone shares Adobe’s long-term support for Flash. Top directors of Google Chrome and Internet Explorer have sung HTML5’s praises; Mozilla Firefox product VP Jay Sullivan is also betting short on Flash stating that HTML5 is the longer-term answer.

Winokur states that the capabilities of Flash will absolutely come to HTML5 over time. He argues that in each round of innovation that is happening across with both platforms, Flash has been trying as aggressively to drive HTML5 innovation–but there are always opportunities to go out and innovate ahead of the standards and bring content publishers the latest and greatest capabilities that are available on devices, and let them take advantage of those things even before they’ve been fully standardized.

Adobe is investing in both [HTML5 and Flash] and is readying both platforms. As and when HTML5 takes over, Adobe would move all its efforts on the HTML5 platform and let drift Flash. However, that might be a long way away to a time when when content publishers are not interested in ongoing investment in Flash.

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HTML5: Remaking the Web

Posted in Applications and User Interfaces, The Technology Ecosystem by Manas Ganguly on April 17, 2011

A couple of months back, I had begunby explaining to a friend the utility concept of HTML5 as a cross platform, open source (developer friendly) and the spooling/ information caching platform. While these remain central to HTML 5, a lots more been added and this series of posts tries to cover HTML5, the future of Web.

HTML5 is no longer just a buzz word. It — along with JavaScript and CSS3 — is quickly helping reshape perceptions of what a web browser and web standards can achieve.

With browsers implementing more HTML5 features across platforms and devices, developers are starting to integrate many of the new features and frameworks into their web apps, websites and web designs.
Although HTML5 is its own standard, the power of HTML5 is really only best realized with the use of CSS 3 and JavaScript. JavaScript, in particular, has quickly emerged as one of the best ways to help render great looking effects, animations and content in a self-contained, platform-agnostic way.

Over the last 12 months, the momentum behind HTML5 has continued to build, with application developers, browser makers and hardware vendors fully embracing and supporting the web of the future. Consumers have started to embrace HTML5 as well, especially as more users understand the benefits and potential that HTML5 can mean for the future. With Firefox 4, Google Chrome, IE 9, Safari 5 and Opera all offering better, more robust support for HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, we’re already seeing glimpses of what is possible and what the web of the future may look like.

The effort here, is to list the features of the HTML5 browsing and the reasons why it is such a critical piece for web App development.

Batter Typography and Custom Fonts

Deployment and Use of Web Font (such as Web Open Font Format, or services like Font.com, TypeKit, Google Web Font API) gives content creators, brands and developers a way to better express and control the most important part of an app or website — the text — without having to rely on images or Flash implementations that don’t always work well for translated text or with search engines.

Boilerplates and ToolKits

Created and perfected over 2.5 years by Paul Irish and Divya Manian, HTML5 Boilerplate is not essentially a framework. It’s a template that can be modified and used for projects by developers world over. It’s one of the most robust and well-commented starting points we’ve seen for setting up a solid HTML5 base for web projects. Boilerplate is openly available under a public domain license; which can be used and integrated it into your web projects as per the developer needs and requirements.

The following slides explain the utility of HTML5 Boilerplates in web Context.

Continued…

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