Spark Blog Notes from the Spark Team

March 28, 2012

Will the Web Make a Comeback with HTML5?

Years ago, when you bought a laptop or computer, the first thing you probably did was load your Web browser and bookmark all of your favorite websites. Flash forward to 2012. Now when you buy a tablet or smartphone, the first thing you probably do is load the application store and install your favorite apps. But some interesting data from Appcelerator/IDC suggests it’s possible that the next popular app store is your smartphone or tablet’s Web browser.

The researchers polled 1,869  developers, asking them if they were “very interested” in developing for a variety of operating systems and hardware platforms. The iPhone lead the charge at 89%, followed by the iPad at 88%, and Android at 79%, acording to CNET’s thorough write-up of the results. But what’s intriguing is that HTML5 polled at 67%. 

HTML5 is a programming language that runs in most popular web browsers on almost any device or operating system. For an example of it in action, check out this HTML5 version of Angry Birds

With HTML5, developers can:

1) Write one app that will run on any OS with an HTML5 web browser. That includes Macs, PCs, smartphones, tablets and even some HDTVs.

2) Avoid charges from app stores. Most charge developers a fee, but if the app runs in a web browser it does not need to be included in an application store.

For an example, check out this HTML5 version of Angry Birds

However, while “6% (of programmers) plan to make all-out Web apps that run in a browser; a much-larger 72% plan a hybrid approach that wraps native interface elements around an app that relies on a browser engine behind the scenes,” CNET says. The benefits of this mixed approach are mainly behind-the-scenes. Writing a big chunk of the code in HTML5 makes it easier to re-use it if the app is ported to another OS.

The biggest barrier right now to creating all-out HTML5 apps is that your browser doesn’t have the same level of access to the processor than your OS does. In plain English, that means apps downloaded from a store will be faster and have more features, such as access the camera. 

But the gap is getting smaller. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor has been optimized to give HTML5 apps significant performance boots. “We’re getting very close” to HTML5 apps that rival native OS apps, Senior Director Liat Ben-Zur said in a recent blog post

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