HTML5 vs. Apps – who will be the winner?

Business Intelligence pie chart - HMTL5 vs mobile apps

My favourite business intelligence site, strangely which goes by the name of Business Intelligence has just released a report on HTM 5.0 and mobile apps – and it makes for some interesting reading.

Aside from the BI assertion that HTML5 is a new technology – it’s been around in different, evolving forms since way back – as of December 2012, it is a W3C Candidate Recommendation, which means it is pretty cool and robust.

Its core aims have been to improve the tag language that drives the Web by supporting all new social objects, previously called multimedia, “while keeping it easily readable by humans and consistently understood by computers and devices (web browsers, parsers, etc.)”

The potential of HMTL5 is also indicated by the fact that the guys running the web – W3C – are positioning the “Five-Tag” evolution as one that subsumes not only HTML 4, but also XHTML 1 and DOM Level 2 HTML. HTML5 is the future of the web.

HTML5, for me, has always been a no-brainer. A universal standard that will play on any browser, launched on any device is my idea of web heaven.

To be clear, it enables developers to build rich web-based apps that run on any device through a standard web browser. That’s power, right there.

Business Intelligence asks a good question; will mature HMTL5 render native platform-dependent apps obsolete?

The logical answer should be an unqualified “Yes” – but the world (wide web) moves in mysterious ways.

This view is given some strength by the BI report, which thinks the same way that I do on this question. You can download the full report by signing up for a free trial. Full disclosure – BI is not a client but definitely worth a read.

The key points from the BI report are:

  • Distribution: Native apps are distributed through app stores and markets controlled by the owners of the platforms. HTML5 is distributed through the rules of the open web: the link economy.
  • Monetisation: Native apps come with one-click purchase options built into mobile platforms. HTML5 apps will tend to be monetized more through advertising, because payments will be less user-friendly.
  • Platform power and network effects: Developers have to conform with Apple’s rules. Apple’s market share, meanwhile, creates network effects and lock-in. If and when developers can build excellent iPhone and iPad functionality on the web using HTML5, developers can cut Apple out of the loop. This will reduce the network effects of Apple’s platform.
  • Functionality: Right now, native apps can do a lot more than HTML5 apps. HTML5 apps will get better, but not as fast as some HTML5 advocates think.

The report analyses:

  • What HTML5 is, giving an overview of how it is a technology done by committee.
  • Why the HTML5-vs-Apps debate matters, breaking down its impact on distribution, monetisation, platform power and network effects, and functionality.
  • The pluses and minuses of HTML5 vs. native apps, comparing each by cost, user experience, features, distribution, and monetization.
  • How and when HTML5 will take over, laying out how it has all the hallmarks of a disruptive technology.
  • The success of an HTML5 pioneer, The Financial Times.
  • What an HTML5 future will look like, with the promise of richer and more interactive experiences.

cotd-mobile-apps-web

However, BI has just published further insights that show U.S. mobile consumers prefer apps as their internet portal of choice for.

Time spent in 2012, minutes spent per month in mobile apps was 4.6 times that of the mobile web, up from a multiple of 2.7 in March 2011.

Between March 2011 and August 2012, consumer time spent in mobile apps grew 200 per cent compared to 75 per cent growth for the mobile web.

BI believes that the reason for the disparity is straightforward: The biggest time buckets on mobile are best accessed through apps and games, the most popular mobile activity by time spent, are almost exclusively accessed through apps.

Social networking, the second most popular activity, is likewise an app-driven phenomenon.

The mobile web is not as conducive to browsing as the desktop web. The screen is smaller, the interface clunkier, the overall experience less optimized for casual surfing and serendipity. Mobile web browsers are most effective with intent: You get in, you get what you need, and you get out.

We’d just say that there is an urgent need for developers to optimise the sites they build for mobile. It’s not difficult, just time-consuming but with a proper understanding of the power of HTML5, the mobile landscape can be transformed.

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