Will HTML5 take over?
When we began development of the MobileNation publishing platform in late 2009 we were taking a bet on the adoption of HTML5. Three years ago, it was the cool kid on the block. Young, smart and you just wanted to hang out and be friends. We were betting part of our company that HTML5 would rise in popularity and we were hopeful that large vendors with investments in the Cloud would endorse HTML5 as the framework of choice for developing state of the art apps and ensuring users could consume their content using a myriad of devices.
Apple had released the App Store only twelve months prior and developing native applications in Objective-C seemed to us like an interim strategy. "What about the web?!" We cried. Here was a mobile phone that transformed the smart phone market but the web was not at its core. Sure you could surf the web on a neat mobile version of Safari, but why weren't the apps web based? Of course Apple had a very smart strategy for creating a developer ecosystem that seamlessly integrated with iTunes to allow us mere mortals to shop for apps like they were candy bars - even pricing them respectively to buying candy. It worked out very well for Apple and everyone scrambled to build their own ecosystem.
But this is changing, and for the better. You can't ignore the ubiquity of the web. Apple is part of a much bigger ecosystem, and indeed it bet on HTML5 over Flash for the iPad. The obvious notion for content creators is "how do I get my content to as many people as possible?"; There needs to be a standards based platform. A framework that enables content creators to design, build and publish apps that can be delivered to as many devices as possible. With Amazon releasing the Kindle Fire and selling four million units in December 2011, HTML5 received another large endorsement as the framework for creating and delivering content to mobile users.
MobileNation creates cross-platform HTML5 apps that are wrapped in a native container for submission to the App Store. There is contention surrounding Apple’s acceptance of these types of apps. Pure web applications cannot appear in the App Store, but HTML5 apps built using a native wrapper are readily accepted. This hybrid approach leverages the benefits of the web as well as accessing native functions of the device, e.g. camera, microphone, push notifications and more. What do Netflix, LinkedIn, Facebook and many more have in common? They've all published hybrid apps (both native and HTML5).
So will HTML5 apps replace native apps? Our position is that in time yes they will, but it will take longer than you think. Right now both camps are enjoying a renaissance period with the rise of mobile heralding the post-PC era.