Unless you’ve been holidaying on the moon, chances are you will have stumbled across an article mentioning HTML5 over the past few months. The topic has attracted an incredible amount of coverage as the IT community ponders the standard and the significance of its adoption. So what’s the big deal?
HTML5 is exciting in part because it provides the capability to build an application once and apply it to both desktops and mobile devices. It has other powerful features too, but this desktop-mobile issue is certainly way up there.
The fragmentation of browsers and mobile operating systems has turned the Internet into what some have dubbed the ‘Splinternet’, causing compatibility issues for app developers. HTML5 promises to bridge that divide, hence its hotly anticipated reception by the press. Indeed, although the codec has yet to be ratified as a standard, it has still been widely adopted.
That said, HTML5 support is not happening across the board. The prime outlier today is Microsoft, which in true Microsoft fashion has implemented its own proprietary technology. Perhaps you’ve heard of Silverlight? Silverlight is significant because many corporations have standardised on Internet Explorer (Silverlight’s predecessor). However, browsers like Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari also support HTML5 and can be installed on a Windows desktop, which should prevent apps becoming ‘locked-in’ to Silverlight.
Other than its ability to work across these different platforms, HTML5 has attracted a great deal of publicity because it offers significant cost savings. The developers themselves are less expensive, development time is shorter and there are significant public resources out there for them to use.
In a mobility context, advances in HTML5 could provide the best of both worlds by creating the right conditions for the development of the ‘hybrid app’, some examples of which are already emerging. This will combine the advantages of the ‘native app’ with the ‘browser-based app’ to give us a lightweight native/thin client web app.
The advantages of this are that these apps will provide some local data storage on the device (allowing you to work offline and then update back office systems when you come back into coverage, for example, a problem for browser-based apps) while also utilising the benefits of web-based apps (such as instant updates and accessibility to different sources of data).
These hybrids will be able to derive information from structured (legacy CRM, SCM and ERP systems) and unstructured (Web) silos as well as boasting graphics rich, role-based, collaborative, modular, location aware, multi-device, fully managed, and highly secure feature sets because they won’t be constrained by the devices they operate over.
Just how far HTML5 can take us is the topic of widespread speculation at present but its certainly been a long time coming and is sure to act as a great leveler. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how Adobe and Microsoft gain/lose market share as the HTML5 spec is adopted by an ever-growing set of browsers and its impact on app development.