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9 March 2012

Mobile apps – a short-lived fad?

Apps may in the long run be ousted by the mobile internet. That’s the confident prediction of consultancy AT Kearney, which goes as far as to say that native smartphone apps "are doomed to be a short-lived fad."

In a new report, Kearney predicts that the latest generation of the HTML Web markup language, HTML5, "will revolutionise the apps market, addressing some significant flaws from both a consumer and an economic perspective."

HTML5 adds new functionality to established HTML norms, including mobile-specific features and better native support for images and video.

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Kearney says apps (small platform-specific computer applications) have drawbacks for both users and developers. For users, it says they are restrictive in terms of browsing capability, and users may need to update or even re-purchase them every time they change their mobile device.

For developers, Kearney says using HTML5 can dramatically reduce coding time, as one app will run across multiple platforms. It will also work with any mobile payment technology.

One reason why content providers may resist HTML is the very fact that, as Kearney points out, it has lower entry barriers than apps targeting a specific operating system, and hence opens up greater competition. But on the plus side, Kearney says providers can deliver a richer browsing experience more easily with HTML5.

The advance of HTML5-based mobile Web sites could be underpinned by a decision taken by US-based appMobi to "open-source" (make freely available) key elements of its mobile technology. Features include its mobiUs browser, which is said to allow HTML5 Web applications to perform identically to native apps. The company also provides code to allow platform-specific apps to integrate with generic HTML5 applications.

Potential confusion arises in this arena because some suppliers are starting to refer to conventional mobile Web sites as "apps", taking the view that many such sites behave rather like bespoke apps already. Indeed, Opera Software, the Web browser specialist, has been developing what it calls "HTML5 apps" – programs that use basic HTML as their platform, but add extra functionality created with a software development kit.

Whatever you call HTML5 pages, the shift to HTML5 will have ramifications across the entire mobile ecosystem, Kearney concludes. According to vice president Laurent Viviez: "HTML5 could rewrite the rules on app development. It’s potentially a massive game changer."

 

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