HTML5 apps are gradually making their way into the mainstream, and are increasingly grabbing the attention of a number of developers, according to recent data from the IDC.
Earlier this month, the research firm estimated that 79% of mobile app developers plan to integrate HTML5 technology into products they plan to launch later in 2012, and said that more than 80% of all mobile apps will be wholly or in-part based on the technology by 2015.
Developers aren't the only ones to be getting excited about the technology. Internet browser Firefox is hoping to consolidate HTML5 apps when it launches Mozilla Marketplace, a one-stop shop for web-apps, later in the year, while a number of media outlets are also favoring HTML5 over native apps.
The Financial Times is one of these outlets, and notably ditched its native iOS app for HTML5 last year, after becoming unhappy at losing subscriber data and revenue dollars to Apple. And while the late Steve Jobs might not have applauded that move, he did famously back HTML5 (over Adobe's Flash) as the future of web app development.
To get a handle on where HTML5 app development is going, we sought the views of Kony, an Orlando-based app development firm and a prominent HTML5 supporter.
HTML5 is a promising technology, but its future could hinge on standardization
“HTML5 is not a silver bullet”, opened Kony CTO, Sri Ramanathan. “It’s a promising technology, but a lot of form factors are fundamentally not ready for it.”
Despite this somewhat pessimistic view, Ramanathan clearly recognizes the potential of the technology and reckons that its popularity will shoot up in the next two years, providing the associated standards are addressed first.
“If we talk 24 months from now, HTML5 will be much closer to mainstream, although standards need to be ratified. Some important things need to be standardized, like the web SQL part of HTML5, so the technology is essentially still a work in process.
“Standardization is a hugely democratic process and there are a lot of vested interests," he adds. "Some of the big software shops participate in the process largely to ensure the standards are based on the technology they already have".
However, for all this talk of compatibility and the need for standards, Ramanathan clearly thinks that HTML5 is going to have legs. He expects the platform to be around "for eight or more years," and for now he says it just needs more time to gell.
Kony said that media companies and retail industries have been the most proactive in adopting HTML5 apps, noting competitiveness in both industries is forcing them to migrate to newer technologies faster to keep their edge.
“If you look at media, the Financial Times’ app is state-of-the-art. It’s well written and it’s a great example of what you can do with HTML5," says Ramanathan.
App stores will be forced to tweak their policies
“Native is never going to go away. There will always be an app store, and these guys will always guarantee that the native experience is the best because they’ve invested billions of dollars,” said Ramanathan.
But the Kony CTO did admit that the prominence of HTML5 apps may at some stage force the likes of Apple, Google and Microsoft into playing around with their respective app store policies.
“They’ll adjust their terms and conditions associated with app stores, but will continue to make sure they offer the best place for finding apps."
HTML5 apps will be big on tablets
Somewhat unsurprisingly given his aforementioned comments and expertise in this area, Ramanathan sees HTML5 apps as to having a big future down the line.
“HTML5 will become much more pervasive for tablets and I think adoption rates will soar," he adds. "HTML5 will be featured on your connected TV, your PS Vita, and in your automobile, so fragmentation will remain, but uptake should still increase over a five-year period."