Will HTML 5 spell the beginning of the end for Mobile App Stores?


Posted on: August 29, 2011 by Adil Tahiri

Mobile App Stores have gained traction over the last 2 years creating a significant channel of revenues for the likes of Apple. Ease of use, coupled with streamlined micro payments and a host of keen application developers, meant that the App Stores have effectively become cash cows for the likes of Apple, Google etc. However this may be about to change thanks to HTML5 and web apps.

HTML5 is the 5th major revision of the core language used in the World Wide Web with a significant number of enhancements that will make interactive web applications a reality. HTML5 should enable far richer user experience through the browser than it is possible today including the ability to make use of applications offline. So what are the benefits of Web applications over traditional App Stores?

  • They are platform independent so you only write code once and it should work in variety of devices including PCs and Mobile devices  (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile etc..)  providing your web browser supports HTML5 features
  • Your applications are always up to date without the need for updates through specific app stores since they are accessed via a standard web browser
  • Your purchases and subscriptions are always available to you regardless which device you are using
  • Reduce hardware stickiness as users will be able to switch devices while maintaining access to their favourite applications

But there are also potential downsides

  • Downloaded native applications are still accessible when there is no network connectivity compared with HTML5 unproven offline capability.
  • It still remains to be seen how equivalent HTML5 apps will be in terms of functionality and especially usability compared to native applications.

Web Apps will enable application vendors and independent developers to bypass platform specific App stores cutting out the middleman and removing the need to maintain an app on multiple platforms, perhaps resulting in more choice for customers and reduced cost per App. Apple for example, allegedly  charges 30% on average for applications downloaded through its store.

It is certainly early days for HTML 5 (still in draft specification). However there are already couple of applications that may be of interest such as Amazon Cloud Reader and FT892 App which give a flavour of what is to come. CTO was very impressed with both applications. Once you have logged in, all previously purchased books and subscriptions are present and the user experience is very similar to the native mobile App. While HTML5 may eventually pose a threat to the App store business model, a number of applications such as gaming and those requiring significant local processing power will continue to come in native format to take advantage of the underlying hardware.

What’s in it for the CIO?

Whilst potential cost saving of applications is always welcome, the key point from an enterprise perspective is platform independence.  As smart phones have pervaded the corporate space from the rise consumerization and executives demanding the latest toys, the dreaded fragmentation has reared its ugly head with multiple platforms and sub divisions of operating systems that multiplies the cost of maintaining a single heterogeneous application.  The corporate app space has therefore been limited by either targeting one platform, accepting the cost of supporting multiple platforms or accepting the functional limitations of existing browser based HTML4.  HTML5 gives the potential for rolling out functionally rich corporate apps across all devices, provided there is a supporting browser available.

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About Adil Tahiri

Head of Global Architecture & Delivery Processes and member of the Scientific Community
Adil Tahiri is a technology strategy director within the Chief Technology Office and also a member of Atos scientific community. His current role involves collaborating with a number of colleagues globally, partners and customers to identify and exploit emerging and disruptive technologies for the benefits of Atos customers. He has been in the IT industry for 15 years and has led the technical delivery of a number of large and complex IT transformation programmes cross different industries. He has particular focus on data centre networking, server technologies, unified communication & collaboration, end-user computing and virtualisation/cloud technologies. Prior to becoming part of the CTO, Adil has held a number of senior technical consulting positions at KPMG, Schlumberger, Fujitsu Services and Atos Origin.