Looking into Mobile’s Future

May 19th, 2011 8 Comments

Rich (@rmanalan) pointed me to a post called Why Mobile Apps Will Soon Be Dead.

This is, and has been, a hot topic for quite some time, as developers move to mobile and are faced with learning new skills on new platforms and face new deployment and distribution hurdles.

The announcement of Angry Birds for Chrome Web Store last week at Google IO features prominently as a showcase for the power of the HTML5 family of technologies, i.e. HTML5, CSS 3 and JavaScript. Angry Birds runs well on low-powered hardware, e.g. the Cr-48, at least according to Rich, and provides offline gameplay.

From what I’ve heard, it functions just as you’ve come to expect from the native versions.

This is huge.

We took in a session last week called “HTML5 Wow” presented by two Google developers that showcased the file, graphics and audio features of HTML5. You should check out the slides, which also implement many HTML5 features, most notably animations.

One caveat, your browser might not be able to render it in all its glory. Try using the Chrome Canary build, which you can run side-by-side with your existing Chrome build. If you’re not using Chrome, why?

You’ll also need to enable the Web Audio API to hear sound.

By now, you’ll see one big issue with building for HTML5, inconsistent browser support for it. Even so, browsers are catching up quickly, both desktop and mobile, and by this time next year, mobile web development will be even more attractive.

But will it be too late?

Jason Grigsby (@grigs) brings up an excellent point about the web vs. native argument in his Links Don’t Open Apps post:

Are you having trouble convincing people that they need to develop a mobile web site as part of their overall mobile strategy?

I have a solution for you. Ask the people you need to convince if they do any of the following:

  • Send email to their customers?
  • Participate in social media?
  • Search engine optimization?
  • Advertise online?

Each one of those marketing efforts is based on links. And links don’t open apps.

Although I love the open web, I’m inclined to think that it won’t seriously challenge native development until 2013.

Why 2013? This year and next will be spent evangelizing and advancing HTML5, both its spec and the browsers that support it. Early development success stories will rise, and by 2012, large development shops will begin to switch.

The enterprise may actually drive HTML5 innovation, since the costs associated with native development are higher for them, mostly due to sunk costs in IT, existing skill sets, and the rise of rich web apps and devices like Chromebooks.

Obviously, all opinion, but that’s why we blog, right?

Find the comments to share your thoughts.


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8 Responses to “Looking into Mobile’s Future”

  1. joel garry Says:

    I once predicted 2 years for linux to be a big Oracle platform.  I was off by about 5 years.  Just sayin’…

  2. Gary Myers Says:

    I read Jason’s post more in a “mobile app vs mobile friendly website” vein, rather than “native apps vs HTML app”. If a website wants or gets traffic from mobile devices they need a mobile friendly site. I see restaurants, bars and similar places in that category.

    Most of those don’t need any form of app (and wouldn’t have anyone really using it if they did).
    But there is scope for ‘big screen’ apps (ala Prezi) and the more they take off, the more I see mobile apps concentrated in the entertainment space.

  3. Jake Says:

    Technically, 2013 is less than 2 years from now. So, you think it will take more like 7 years for wide-spread HTML5 adoption? Is that overall or just for mobile? 

  4. Jake Says:

    I don’t see those as different. Mobile apps are native by convention, and a mobile-friendly website should use HTML5 to optimize and display its content. I guess the line between site and app is so blurred now that it seems necessary to make a distinction.

    I agree that entertainment is a growth area, but HTML5 offers media controls. Plus, developers can access some hardware controls through tools like jQM and PhoneGap. Prezi should rewrite their entire app in HTML5 and ditch Flash.

  5. Gary Myers Says:

    I can see very separate business cases for simple ‘brochure’ web sites that are mobile friendly but with no interactivity, for large screen apps that won’t be used on pocket-sized devices and for apps that are expected to be used on pocket-sized devices. 

    My local chinese restaurant might benefit from a web site with their location, opening hours and menu. They’d want that site bo be mobile friendly. But I don’t see why they should go to the hassle of developing a native mobile app, or even a web app. But a big pizza chain has more resources and a larger customer base can get a benefit.
    I’ll go to the hassle of getting a native app for something I do several times a day. Probably not for something I do once a month. I see mobile devices as fillers rather than primary devices, which is why I see their apps as mostly communication or entertainment. But then I don’t necessarily pigeon hole tablets and netbooks/chromebooks as purely mobile. I have switched from Tweetdeck as ChromeExtension to the native app on my netbook though.

    So yeah, there are some blurry lines there

  6. Jake Says:

    Pizza Hut offers native apps for ordering. This is a perfect mobile use case. I think businesses rush to apps and mobilizing their content without a really good picture of what they *mobile* customers want. Installing a mobile app that doesn’t add mobile value is too much to ask and therefore, wasted development.

    One other advantage to mobilizing content is that it’s highly optimized for lower bandwidth consumption, which is probably one gain you get from switching to a native app for Twitter on your netbook.

    There are a lot of legitimate concerns that get passed over when customers want apps. Jason echos this in his post.

  7. Jake Says:

    Pizza Hut offers native apps for ordering. This is a perfect mobile use case. I think businesses rush to apps and mobilizing their content without a really good picture of what they *mobile* customers want. Installing a mobile app that doesn’t add mobile value is too much to ask and therefore, wasted development.

    One other advantage to mobilizing content is that it’s highly optimized for lower bandwidth consumption, which is probably one gain you get from switching to a native app for Twitter on your netbook.

    There are a lot of legitimate concerns that get passed over when customers want apps. Jason echos this in his post.

  8. Timo Pietilä Says:

    Hi,

    Interesting post. My company Zonear specializes in mobile web apps and I must say that when it comes to user-experience our apps are not very far from native apps.

    We in collaboration with Museum Centre Vapriikki just released a browser-based mobile web app to serve the international visitors of the highly acclaimed “Tampere 1918″ exhibition. The map-based UI of the app includes an interactive floorplan of the exhibition space
    and enables users to interact with the environment and objects. The
    points of interest provide an audio narrative to the exhibition and old
    authentic photos that give added depth and context to the exhibition.

    You can try it at http://zonear.com/2011/05/tampere-1918-exhibition-guide/

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