- Do you wonder about the need for a mobile app?
- Why not just optimise your website for mobile?
In a recent article on Search Engine Land the author predicts that “… mobile apps, in general, peaking out shortly, as mobile computing power and network Internet speeds become strong enough to remove the need for native software“. The context of the article is about programming interfaces as a way to gather data for search results.
I think this presents a shortness in vision around the advantage to business that a mobile application provides.
In order for this vision to become reality there is significant change in the industry that must occur. The phone manufacturers and operating systems will have to alter significantly, and the HTML standard (that the web is built upon) will have to change and be adopted in order for this to occur. That’s because of the hardware available on the phone (GPS, camera, video, sound, processor and memory) and features like push notifications. Currently the browser on phones does not have access to these features in the same way a native app does.
I have no doubt that this will happen, and technology is moving along at a rapid pace, but we are 5 years away from having this in place, and here is why.
1) For any web technology to become a standard, it must first be put in place by the w3c in a document, agreed upon and standardised. Historically this takes a number of years, and even though some manufacturers start to build against draft specifications to get ahead it takes a while to get bedded in.
2) Once the standard is set the major Internet browsers (safari, Firefox, chrome and Internet Explorer) must all then implement the features to the same level. Historically they have all done it slightly differently, and to this day Internet Explorer provides developers with a headache as it can be significantly different.
3) In order for these features to work the world must upgrade – that is millions of web browsers that are installed around the world. This means every desktop, mobile phone, tablet and potentially watches and glasses must get the upgrade. There are over half a billion devices needing an upgrade.
4) Finally once a critical mass has been achieved then developers who need a consistent experience across browsers can start to use the features. A business can really only use bleeding edge technology for small market, beta systems where they can control the user, or the user understands what is happening. for the rest of us we have clients who are not tech savvy and expect things to work and look awesome on whatever device they use to interact.
Currently the HTML5 standard is not yet complete, it is still being refined and added to. Sure some of the major features are there for animation, video and sound, but it has been largely focused on browsers providing an experience where a user can interact with all kinds of functionality without extra installations of plugins (the flash player for example).
This move has been really beneficial to mobile as it helps deliver the content where some technology is not available, like the Adobe Flash on iOS issues. So HTML5 has already made good progress on mobile and cross platform. But what about offline storage memory, push notifications, inter app interactions?
Offline storage exists in HTML5 but its a really complex system to use and does not have widespread adoption from the browsers. Push notifications online or offline do not exist unless the browser is open and active on the device, and there is no standard way to open another app on the device from a web link.
We are 5 years away from browsers being powerful enough to take on apps. For some business this will not be an issue, for others it could be the link to success.
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SixFive is a mobile app developer – If you’d like some assistance in making your website work well on mobile, or creating and launching a mobile app for your business, drop us a line, we’d be only too happy to assist you.
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