Open Source

Why DevCon5 is Not about Apple iOS

By Carl Ford, Partner, Crossfire Media  |  September 06, 2012

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY

The link at Apple’s (News - Alert) HTML5 site says it best:

Every new Apple mobile device and every new Mac — along with the latest version of Apple’s Safari web browser — supports web standards including HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript. These web standards are open, reliable, highly secure, and efficient. They allow web designers and developers to create advanced graphics, typography, animations, and transitions. Standards aren’t add-ons to the web. They are the web. And you can start using them today.”

That is a pretty strong statement, and the fact the web is migrating this way has huge implications for everyone’s business models. At our show, DevCon5, we have seen WebGL provide 3D-like and video-like rendering that would make every special effects artist wonder. We have also seen animation come from everywhere in the triumph of HTML5 software – from the canvas media call out, the CSS3 style sheet and the Java script programming.  

The sites have become alive in animation, but the real dynamic is the way the big data is dynamically coming to the page from simpler client server commands as opposed to middleware of the past. While people call it big data, the reality is that the web itself is becoming a rich resource of APIs and data feeds that allow application developers to concentrate on a good user experience and leave the heavy lifting to the back end sources.

That makes the cloud something the nearer, but I doubt the term fog bank can sell well to IT.

So, if all this power is coming to the browser, does anyone need to develop for the client OS?

The answer in the near term is “yes”, but in the long run it will be “less”.

Let’s look at Apple’s recent World Wide Developer Conference and the announcements around iOS6 and Mountain Lion. While it would be easy just to focus on the 200-plus features added to iOS6, the bigger picture is how they are blending between the computer and the mobile device.

When you build with HTML5, there is the ability for the browser to communicate with the device OS to provide local storage and feature and function calls that are common to devices. In addition, with the SDK of a device you can blend between the web and the device features. Much of what you can do with the device and the browser can be the gateway for the experience.

For example, Apple has turned iCloud into a synchronizing solution between all of a user’s Apple devices. Everything in what Apple is doing can be accomplished with HTML5, but in iCloud it’s not about the technology, it’s about the experience. In fact one interesting solution Apple provided was to make it so that when you are visiting a website the site’s application is pushed at you as a reminder, like a coupon. I would call this App Sense, but others may have that name elsewhere. From Apple’s perspective, the experience is not to defer to the browser but to use the Internet without the browser. Siri, Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter, Yelp and OpenTable all are integrated into the device OS. 

Now, for many application developers this may be a “Job - Send”. (He’s up there watching over all of them.) The user interface of Apple is always fresh and slick, and candidly, most of us can’t do as well with our designs. Apple’s goal is to put more of your experience under its control. This is great if you were looking to work with Yelp (News - Alert), but if your goal was to be Yelp, you now have a problem.

As more applications are integrated, the question remains: Will the App Store prove to be a farm club for the partnerships that Apple wants? It will be particularly interesting to see if app developers will be able to replicate the level of integration that Apple has provided for its partners. While I continue to have no proof of this premise today, my sense is that eventually feature interaction will rear its ugly head and partners will be seen as a priority to the rest of app community.

Over time as HTML5 gets further implemented, it will be hard to find a specific reason to make apps iOS-specific. Today Apple has a vibrant app ecosystem that is a mix of web and iOS solutions, and it is infinitely cooler to say my app is “in the App Store” than to say “it’s on the web”.  

Edited by Stefania Viscusi