Taking apps to the next level

John C. Tanner
17 Nov 2011

Web apps
HTML5-enabled cloud apps won't kill native apps or kill app stores

Native apps are the de facto format for the current apps boom, but that's expected to change with the development of web apps - apps hosted in the cloud that run on the browser and, thanks to features within the HTML5 standard, can function like native apps even when the device is offline. Indeed, web apps are at the heart of Google's long-term mobile ambitions - so much so that its commission fee for apps developers is a paltry 5% (compared to Apple's 30%). 

The appeal of web apps is dead simple: they're OS-agnostic, which means apps developers can reach a much broader base of users without having to write separate apps for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, WP7, Bada, LiMo, etc. How broad? Let's put it this way: according to ABI Research, over 2.1 billion mobile devices will have HTML5 browsers by 2016, compared to 109 million last year. 

Even though the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) says the HTML5 standard won't be finished until the end of the decade, 25 HTML5 features currently in development will be in wide use within the next three to five years, says ABI senior analyst Mark Beccue. "We expect HTML5 features in categories such as graphics, multimedia, user interactions and data storage to be widely adopted sooner rather than later."

But that doesn't mean web apps will be competing with those platforms, or with native apps in general, Beccue adds. "HTML5 adoption is going to accelerate because it will be a key differentiator in the smartphone OS war. I believe that Apple will be the key driver of HTML5 and consequently a primary benefactor as well."

Ovum's Nick Dillon adds that the rise of web apps won't spell the end of either native apps nor the app storefront model. "App stores offer a familiar environment for consumer to discover, download and purchase apps, and we anticipate that the majority of app stores will list a mix of both HTML5 and native applications in their catalogues in the future."

Next: Apps for feature phones