HTML 5: custom business application or off-the-shelf software?

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hAs we mentioned in our previous post, it’s clear that, mostly for economic reasons, companies want applications that are “ready-to-mobilize”. The demand is there: 75% use standard applications and 20%, custom business applications. Further, we continued on to show that developers see positive opportunities for both options. Off-the-shelf as well as custom-made business applications…

One in the hand, is better than two in the bush

Recently however, a senior mobile developer confided to me that he had seriously considered dropping some mobile development platforms. Because customers were just not ready to absorb the costs of cross-platform development. Instead, in order to save money these clients were asking him to select THE platform (or sometimes two) with the greatest reach and potential, to evaluate the costs for it and to eliminate the others! While this is understandable, it’s not necessarily an elegant solution and very often proves problematic because there are few companies or homogeneous target audiences that use only one model of mobile device, let alone a single OS.

Add to that, the clear boundary between applications intended for the general public and those optimized for professional use. Without question however, if you deploy for the general public you must be multiplatform.

And to continue this line of thought, our developer began to fantasize about a mobile development environment; one without need of adaptation per platform, well… almost. One thing leads to another and our analysis brings us directly to the many promises of HTML 5.

HTML 5, a name that says… relief

One of the promises, some would say fantasy, of HTML 5 is to progress the web towards a new standard, the first in 13 years. So in order to solve all the problems, and there are many, we’re talking about integrating new semantic tags to better manage the display of sites, integration of new content types such as HD/2D/3D audio and video, and most importantly, “to demonstrate its relevance as a development platform in the face of two major opponents”, he commented. “On the desktop, proprietary technologies such as Flash plugins and to a lesser extent, Silverlight, and on mobiles, we’re talking native apps distributed via the app stores.”

I recommend this excellent post on about the issues and promises of the famous HTML 5.

(Available in French only)

What caught our attentions in fact, is this passage from HTML 5 – Part 2,  “back-end/web/mobile:

Competition for the App Stores

In combining the HTML 5 API (geo-location, work offline, heavy calculations… ) and these new opportunities for interaction, it’s now possible to create Rich Internet Applications (RIA) without recourse to proprietary technologies like Flash or Silverlight.

Browsers from the main smartphone OSs (Android, BlackBerry OS 6, iOS… ) support it.

In a market saturated with App Stores (Apple’s App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App WorldOvi Store, Samsung Apps… ), HTML5 allows you to create rich web applications available on all carriers via a cross-platform development. It’s a time-saver for the developer.”

Mobility, just what can we expect from you?

Today, Mobility is everywhere and it’s offering you opportunities…

If you develop a mobile application you could develop a web or a native app and then adapt it… as time permits.

The question being asked more and more; cost aside, if your business context allowed for the development of a web application, this measure would singlehandedly eliminate the problem of ownership (purchasing) of smartphones which become out-dated, as well as the hosting problem and corporate data security on the device!

Moreover, advanced applications now exist for multi-platform and OS mobile device fleet management; notably Sybase Afaria and Juniper. These applications, well some of them, also allow personal and professional profile management; that is to say, compartmentalisation (separation) of data and business applications through profile activation, so that users can’t profit from company information or tools outside of working hours among others. One could, for example, use these tools for your current fleet of devices and develop mobile web applications (with web servers) for all your new needs in the future!

A Game Changer on the horizon

The fact is that after all, the promise of HTML 5 is attractive at the moment, so for mobile developers. But is it a realistic option? Just how many years will it take before this “standard” becomes not only perfectly defined, but before it is widely deployed ? We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years now, the major players involved in the definition of the standards (Apple, Google, Opera, Mozilla) are talking, yet the fact is that all these players don’t really have converging interests. In fact, I would say it’s the quite the opposite.

Meanwhile, all the wonderful technologies that currently exist have taken advantage of  the dusty old web. HTML 4 world, to evolve so as to render today’s web experience interesting in the same way that Flash, Silverlight.

And on the mobile side, yes, you can capitalise on/bet on the achievements of browsers, especially if one or more mobile players integrate these technologies into their OS, in the way Android has done with Flash and Microsoft could integrate Silverlight into Windows 7 mobile. What a mess though, because there is no doubt that the integration of Flask in part, explains the runaway success of Android phones.

Any mobile OS that integrates,current Web technology will offer a superior user experience grab new customers quickly. It’s a platform worth giving serious consideration in your mobile development strategy.

And then there’s always the question of company data – of your enterprise database. Will businesses want to operate in Web Data mode, put their data in the Cloud? But that… (well who’s kidding whom!!!)

Have a great week,



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