HTML5 to lead change for mobile developers

With the upcoming Web programming language, content providers won't need to rebuild apps for every new mobile device and operating system in the market, notes Opera Software senior exec.

KUALA LUMPUR--The proliferation of HTML5-based browsers in the coming year will likely change the way content providers approach the mobile application marketplace, according to browser player Opera Software.

The Norwegian company's chief strategy officer, Rolf Assev, noted that content providers today are spending too much of their resources building specific mobile apps for different platforms on different devices.

"Every time there is a new platform and a new device introduced to the market, a content provider needs to build a new app using different specifications to fit the operating system (OS) and device screensize," Assev told ZDNet Asia on the sidelines of Opera's first media briefing here.

Assev said this is not an efficient way forward for content providers as there are hundreds of phones in the market with different form factors, making it time consuming and resource-intensive.

But, he noted that the tide is expected to change for content providers with the wider use of HTML5.

Interoperability across devices, platforms
"With HTML5, content providers need not build an app for each different OS and each different screensize," Assev said. "Instead, developers will only need to build a 'smart bookmark', which is a link that will effectively call out a device's browser and direct it to a content provider's Web site."

Because a HTML5-enabled browser can access a device's features through APIs (application programming interfaces) and can call out features, such as geo-location to contextualize the content, the browser can now have the same features available in the mobile app, Assev noted.

For example, a mobile user can click on a smart bookmark and activate his device's HTML-enabled browser, which can then provide localized news and weather reports, emulating what specific mobile apps can do today.

Assev explained: "This will fundamentally change the game for content providers as there is no need to rebuild an app over and over again just because a new device with a new operating system has come into the market."

With the use of smart bookmarks, he added that purchased apps will no longer be locked into a specific platform. "If I had bought an app meant for an Apple iPhone, I would need to buy it again if I had a Google Android phone.

"With HTML5 and smart bookmarks, I can have access to my content regardless of what platform I possess because access to content [will be] based on a subscription and not a download model," he said.

However, one key factor that needs to be addressed is payment models, Assev said, noting that content providers and operators will need to work out details regarding revenue-sharing.

In its latest "State of Mobile Web" report, Opera noted that the number of unique mobile Internet users in Malaysia increased 399.4 percent from a year before. The report also revealed that each mobile user browsing via Opera, on average, transferred 14 megabytes worth of data and viewed 1,235 Web pages.

Edwin Yapp is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.