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Growing-Popularity-of-HTML5-Plays-Critical-Role-in-App-Market-Growth
Gurvinder Batra
Founder & CTO-KiwiTech
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The rapidly growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers has led to an explosion of mobile apps that has been a blessing for consumers as they seek to have the benefits of their laptop while on the go. One of the primary reasons for this growth in mobile technology demand and usage is the huge number of apps available on the iTunes, Android and other app stores. Apple’s iTunes platform has kept its pioneering lead for now, with the perfect compatibility between Apple’s hardware, software and apps. Their head start also makes the cost of switching devices high for consumers who may have already spent much hard-earned money on Apple’s apps.

Why are more and more companies releasing apps? For the most part, companies are building apps for gaming, content and user engagement. Each industry is finding their own spin on mobile and how to leverage it to enhance or reinvent their business.

To feed the demand side of the app market, we require good and scalable development. Native apps usually work on one platform. This makes it expensive for companies, as they must develop separate apps for iOS, Android and any other platform their target market may use. HTML5 could be the holy grail of app development, since it is platform independent due to its reliance on web browsers. So, any device with a web browser can essentially support an HTML5 app.

There are at least four key reasons why HTML5 is swiftly becoming the norm:
• Simplifies the process for integrating, video, data and audio • Creates one app to work on multiple platforms • Decreases the amount of development work across platforms • Changes the way clients can access and control data from users While the benefits of HTML5 are significant, developers also face challenges in using HTML5 on a regular basis. These challenges include: limited DRM (Digital Rights Management); the growing trend of hackers targeting mobile web content and the prevention of click jacking.

Bringing It All Together

The advent of HTML5 as a primary tool for developers over the past two years has simplified the way that apps rich with content can be quickly deployed. HTML5 makes the process of integrating video, audio and data into an app significantly easier compared to previous efforts. Before HTML5, developers employed add-on tools such as Flash, Flex or Silverlight. In more extreme cases, developers would have to create entirely new complex tools using Javascript.

The arrival of HTML5 and its powerful canvas tool has simplified the integration of various components into a mobile app. Mozilla's BeSpin tool, which is written in Javascript and HTML5, is a good example of how developer packages have evolved in the past two years. Using BeSpin, developers can use standalone HTML sites to create sites with interactive pictures and animation, charts and graphs. Developers can also have greater flexibility for embedding video on a webpage.

According to Jeff Whatcott, Chief Marketing Officer at Brightcove, a US-based provider of cloud content services, "apps are a journey, not a destination." In other words, we should look at apps in an evolutionary, rather than a finite sense.

When One Becomes Many

Another advantage of using HTML5 to develop robust content is the resulting app can be used across multiple platforms from Apple, Adobe, Google and Microsoft. Creating one app that runs on multiple devices is especially important due to the skyrocketing demand for smartphones. A recent study from consulting firm Strategy Analytics said there would be one billion smartphones in use worldwide by 2013. By comparison, there were 336 million smartphones in use worldwide at the end of 2011. This explosive growth means there will be a strong demand for apps that can work seamlessly on an iPhone, Android or Windows-based phone. The best way to address the multiple platform issue is for developers to embrace HTML5 as the solution.

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, said in a December statement that HTML5 is a critical factor for promoting the convergence of content on smartphones, tablets, desktop PCs and even vehicles to access the same content.

"With its potential to transcend some of the barriers faced by native apps, such as cross-platform usability, HTML5 is a market that no mobile stakeholder can afford to ignore," Mawston said.

Where Innovation Meets Cost Reduction

Just as important as the platform issue is the development issue. The advent of HTML5 software developer kits allows companies to develop cost-effective apps. Companies such as appMobi, Appcelerator and PhoneGap have seen strong demand for their SDKs as companies look to reduce app development costs and increase the profitability of apps.

MoSync is a company that uses cloud-based computing to help clients create apps more cost-effectively using HTML5. They have created a series of templates that are essentially working applications. A company can choose from the different templates to customize its own app without having to use an outside developer or write a single line of C+/C++ code. Instead, users can create a native application themselves and then deploy the app as a standalone offering on a mobile app store.

Controlling the Database

As mobile apps grow in popularity, companies will need a way to effectively manage the resulting data that is created. By using HTML5, companies can include a client-side database in their mobile app. HTML5 allows developers to create an SQL-based database API that can be used for storing data locally on the client device. While this database is temporary in nature, it allows users to access critical data even if they are disconnected from the Web for a short period of time.

Some Challenges for HTML5

Despite all the rosy discussions about the future of HTML5, there are some critical challenges associated with it. As more companies develop HTML5-based apps, hackers will look for new ways to attack these apps in order to access data illegally. So developers will need to add layers of security to ensure that content remains under the control of authorized users at all times.

Security experts will also need to address click-jacking, the process by which hackers trick Web users into revealing sensitive data. As mobile commerce increases and customers give retailers and other firms’ sensitive data, the risk of click-jacking increases.

Click-jacking is a serious issue is that front-end and back-end developers, when using HTML5, do a poor job of communicating with each other to identify and fix serious security issues. And, if a company is in a hurry to release an app, then security may take a back seat to being seen in the marketplace.

Conclusion

As companies look for new ways to create apps in order to stay in touch with existing and potential customers, HTML5 will gain popularity for a variety of reasons. HTML5 simplifies the process for integrating video, audio and data into an app. It also makes it easier for developers to create one app that works across a variety of platforms, which saves time and money.

In addition, the evolution of SDKs makes it possible for companies such as startups that would traditionally not create apps because of the expense, to create apps more cost-effectively. This new reality has important implications for small firms trying to compete with much larger counterparts.

Finally, HTML provides companies with a way to have client-side databases. These databases make it easier for firms to access data if they are temporarily disconnected from the Internet. Taken together, there are many advantages for companies who embrace the use of HTML5 to develop robust, user-friendly content.

The author is Founder & CTO, KiwiTech

KiwiTech is a mobile app company with an emphasis on media and entertainment and has developed over 600 apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Nokia platforms. With almost 3 million downloads, KiwiTech apps have achieved top rankings in app stores in Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, U.K., India and U.S.
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