The age-old debate between native and web technology refuses to go away, but don’t let that distract you from the very real possibility that HTML5 could one day be key to your company’s custom business apps.
The beauty of web apps is that they can work across numerous operating systems, regardless of whether they're powering a smartphone, tablet or laptop. What this essentially means is that one colleague/customer could be using the app on an iPad, while another checks it out on an Android smartphone (note: this is however providing that both platforms support all the APIs used in your app).
So, what are the advantages of doing so? Besides saving on costly app development (more on that below), it means your app is more likely to support some of the newer devices to come to market, even if they sport a different screen size, resolution and aspect ratio.
It's cost effective
As a follow on from the previous point, developing for one technology compared to three of four is going to save your business a whole heap of cash.
Rough estimates have put custom iOS and Android app development for enterprise between $50,000 and $250,000 (that low-end estimate will rise if you’re looking for a unified iOS app that supports both iPhones and iPad), with HTML5 considerably cheaper individually and collectively.
Add into that the fact that most employees (at least in big Fortune 500 enterprises) will require different tools, from workflow and checklist applications to software-as-a-service solutions and you begin to see why this cost saving is essential.
As an added bonus, businesses going with HTML5 apps won’t be forced to hand over 30% of their app revenues to Apple or Microsoft for entrance into their respective app stores.
Developers love the easy life
By comparison, developing apps natively is a whole different ballgame which requires very different skills.
Fragmentation isn’t any worse than it is natively
When it comes to developing apps, fragmentation is an issue experienced both with native and web applications.
And although there are at least 15 mobile browsers in existence, each available in different versions and supporting different levels, with HTML5 you’ll also have the challenge of developing apps for multiple platforms (and different versions of those platforms) with native.
So fragmentation is little worse there than it is natively.
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It’s only going to get better
Truth be told mobile web apps could only get better 12 months ago; there were limited features in the apps themselves and even developers in an IDC study claimed to be ‘neutral to dissatisfied’ with what tools were on offer.
Notifications are still missing compared to native apps, but everything else is coming together. The apps are now better equipped for capacitive touch control and most apps support pinch to zoom. The majority are also able to detect a user’s location, store data locally on the device, and access information on the device, such as downloads and contacts.
Add into the mix that the final spec of HTML5 isn’t likely to be finalized by the Worldwide Web Consortium until 2014 and you can see that improvement is still a very real possibility.
You can update apps faster
One other advantage of swerving the App Store is that you won’t be forced to wait when you have an app update ready.
Yep, instead of waiting for Apple, Google or Microsoft to give you the green-light, you can push out your web app update whenever you – and your users – are ready.
Good resources are never too far away
Not only are the developer tools easy to get a handle on with HTML5 but there are already numerous companies willing and able to work with companies on their business web apps.
The likes of Mubaloo, Gizmox and Compsoft, to name a few, will help you build your customized web app, while Sencha has numerous online tools if you're going it alone.
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