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HTML5 Web Apps Coming of Age

Friday 21 October 2011
It is great to see the increased impetus behind using HTML5 to develop smartphone apps rather than developing a native app for each manufacturer's operating system (e.g. Apple, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile).

We recently changed our mobile development path from using Java to develop for Android, BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry QNX to using HTML5 to develop for all platforms (including Apple and Windows Mobile).

It is encouraging that companies are pushing the limits of the HTML5 specification by suggesting their own features. One example of this are the prototypes that Microsoft have created to allow data storage, file objects, duplex communications and media capture. You can test their implementations at their HTML5Labs.

The additions to the specifications that are top of my wish list though are improved geolocation features. The fact that HTML5 already includes the ability to detect your location is very appreciated but imagine how good it would be if the browser could also ask the handset what the current heading and speed are (as happens with native apps at the moment).

The benefits of using web apps aren't just limited to streamlining the development process and expanding the number of platforms we can target. It will also allow us to continue to use a single sign in for all our sites and to distribute them outwith the different app stores.

We will still need to invest a lot of time into ensuring that the apps are optimised for the different screen sizes and testing with multiple handsets, especially until a stable standard emerges, but have not come across any barrier that HTML5 cannot overcome (e.g. headings and speeds can be computed). The benefits for our users is that they are going to see lightweight, yet powerful yachting apps coming to their smartphone soon. Gartner predict that by 2015 half of all mobile apps will be written in HTML5. We predict that next year all our apps will.