TECH CORE Myths and misconceptions of HTML5 with By Matt Bancroft, Mobile Helix co-founder and president
There is an enormous opportunity to unlock new revenue streams and productivity in the enterprise through mobile technology, specifically through the development of mobile enterprise apps. And HTML5 offers a number of important advantages as a development platform for these applications – from robust cross-platform/OS support to simple, secure app deployment and update processes. But in spite of these compelling benefits, a number of myths and misconceptions about using HTML5 for mobile enterprise apps are impeding widespread adoption.
Myth #1 – Browser support for HTML5 is variable
The reality is that browser support for HTML5 is improving rapidly, particularly in the most recent versions of Safari, Firefox, Chrome and IE. Some gaps do remain, but they are closing rapidly.
But more importantly, for the enterprise HTML5 support for each major browser is basically irrelevant when selecting an application development platform. Most enterprises will require a dedicated workspace for their sensitive applications and services, whether they are installed on corporate or personally owned devices.
A custom-developed, secure enterprise browser for accessing enterprise apps and the enterprise intranet is part of this enterprise workspace. These enterprise browsers are necessarily compliant with the HTML5 standard and often go beyond it.
Myth #2 – HTML5 apps offer only a restricted feature set
This criticism is based on perceptions about the HTML5 standard, including lagging mass market browser compliance and slow progress of the standard, which lags behind actual device capabilities available to native developers, and the fact that browsers generally have more limited access to local device features.
But, as we have already mentioned, mass market browser compliance with the HTML5 standard is irrelevant to the enterprise, which will require and control its own secure browser. As for the HTML5 standard, it is inevitable that it will lag behind actual device capabilities to some degree.
However, these gaps are closing rapidly. In addition, there are numerous techniques for extending secure enterprise browsers beyond the HTML5 standard to give access to the full set of local device features (for example, integration with Apache Cordova). This basically gives enterprise app developers using HTML5 access to enterprise-required functionality equivalent to the native development environment.
In addition, the majority of enterprise app developers are already familiar with web development techniques and technologies like JQuery and JQuery mobile, making it much easier for them to develop using HTML5 than with new, unfamiliar and complicated native code.
Myth #3 – Apps developed using HTML5 are slow
However, this performance gap is closing rapidly, and processor technology on modern mobile devices is rapidly advancing. Any remaining performance gap that exists now is so small that it doesn't justify selecting native over HTML5 for the vast majority of enterprise apps.
For most enterprise apps and most mobile use cases, HTML5 apps can meet the most stringent performance requirements, provided they are designed and developed with mobile use in mind.
Myth #4 – Apps developed using HTML5 deliver a poor user experience
Blaming HTML5 for a poor user experience is another outdated and misdirected criticism. Mobile apps must be designed recognising the inherent constraints of mobile, which include screen size, processing power, available bandwidth and latency.
Native development offers no advantage over HTML5 in this respect. In reality, a significant advantage for HTML5 is that a common unified user interface can be created and delivered to the employee across any device or OS, mobile or fixed, given the common delivery platform of a browser across the different device types.
Myth #5 – HTML5 apps are less secure
HTML5 apps are neither more nor less secure than native applications. Ultimately, app security is driven by the enterprise's security model and the care with which it is followed, rather than the mobile app development approach. HTML5 enables an enterprise to incorporate a wide range of security features, from strong authentication and encryption, to intelligent app design and integration with existing security infrastructures, processes and policies.
In fact, it is possible to design an HTML5 app and supporting security model that is compliant with the most stringent set of security requirements. And a data-centric security model is an advantage to the enterprise regardless of the development approach.
The bottom line
For the vast majority of enterprise needs, using HTML5 to develop web applications offers a compelling approach for enterprises, providing a number of benefits over alternate approaches, including native OS development, and enabling delivery on the full promise of unrestricted mobile productivity for enterprise users.
So if you are considering native development for your mobile enterprise apps, think again about the advantages of HTML5. And don't immediately believe everything you hear.