Thursday, July 28, 2011
By G Krishna Kumar
Not too far in the future, HTML5 could share platform space in the mobile apps market.
Remember the frenzy created by the mobile phone game “Angry Birds”, which was first launched on Apple's mobile operating system, iOS? Not only is the game available on leading mobile platforms now, thanks to its popularity, but also, the usage of words “Angry” or “Birds” in other application names has increased manifold over the past one year, states Distimo, a company that studies the mobile applications market.
In general, every time ‘a cool application' is available on Apple's application store, the immediate response from a non-Apple smartphone or tablet user is to check whether the same application is available with the Android Market Place, OVI store or Windows Market Place.
Wouldn't it be great to see an application on all platforms at once? But before we look for answers, let's first take a quick look at the global business opportunity for mobile applications.
Is the market Big enough?
According to Gartner, globally, mobile application store revenue is projected to surpass $15.1 billion in 2011, both from end-users buying applications, and applications themselves generating advertising revenue for their developers. By 2014, the revenue is expected to touch over $58 billion.
Worldwide, mobile application store downloads are forecast to reach 17.7 billion downloads in 2011 and by the end of 2014, Gartner forecasts that over 185 billion applications will have been downloaded from mobile application stores. Free downloads are forecast to account for 81 per cent of total mobile application store downloads in 2011.
A study by Zokem, provider of mobile analytics, reveals that in smartphones, the share of application usage is overwhelming — it achieves almost six times more face time than web browsing.
In tablets, however, the difference is not so significant with 39 per cent of face time allocated to web browser and 61 per cent to applications. Studies have revealed that two-thirds of smartphone usage go into non-voice call-related activities.
With tablets gaining momentum and device users willing to pay for high-quality applications, the applications market will remain upbeat over the foreseeable future. Due to the opportunity size, developers and application stores are under pressure to create the best user experience and to provide quickest time-to-market.
Native Applications route
As of now, the traditional approach to application development for smartphones and tablet devices is to use the native Application Development route. This means applications are developed separately for iPhone, or on Google's Android platform.
Such custom-built applications utilise all the functionalities and capabilities of the device and provide excellent user experience. However, the biggest drawback is the cost involved due to extremely low reusability of software code.
Just imagine trying to develop the same application from scratch for four different platforms.
Zokem's March 2011 report indicates that email, gaming and music content are consumed more using native applications.
There are quite a few cloud-based application builders or application-creators that enable developers to create applications on multiple platforms/devices at once.
However, these app-creators don't exploit the platform-specific functionalities and are unable to match the rich user experience as compared with the native applications.
The app creator/builder market is nascent with many more trying to tap this space. This generic ‘create-once and run anywhere' is not hugely successful as yet. Is this going to change dramatically with the advent of HTML5?
HTML5 is the fifth generation of Hyper Text Markup Language, the popular web standard. Technology industry leaders such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and hardware manufacturers support it. There is expectation that HTML5 will be the “true” multi-platform application development technology.
HTML5 would enable browser-based applications and also stand-alone applications, including off-line applications. It supports multimedia content through video and audio tag, location-based information using Geo Location APIs (application program interface) and can also access the native platform.
With browser being the core of HTML5, applications can work on “any” platform or device, including PC, smartphone or tablet, with minimal device-specific changes for stand-alone applications. That would mean a huge cost saving, compared with the native applications.
Currently, Flash is the undisputed leader for multimedia support on browsers. However, the HTML5 ecosystem is gaining momentum.
For example, WebM, an open source project, has been created to provide rich multimedia user experience on the Web. YouTube supports WebM in addition to its existing formats as part of its HTML5 experiment. Among other aspects, WebM is aimed at supporting low computational footprint to enable playback on hand-held devices.
HTML5 would be welcomed by publishing companies. Financial Times, for instance, recently announced an HTML5-based application to attract digital subscribers.
Though, there are not many mobile applications based on it as yet, HTML5 is an evolving technology. McKinsey estimates that more than 50 per cent of all mobile applications will switch to HTML5 within three to five years.
HTML5 would be a clear winner in the web/cloud intensive mobile application space, while native applications would lead the computation-intensive contexts. Essentially, HTML5 and native applications are poised to co-exist over the foreseeable future!
(The author is Director – Engineering, Teleca Software Solutions India. Views are personal.)
Posted by Teleca at 7:57 PM