Easy Authoring is the Key to HTML5 Winning in the Mobile World

In a recent article titled "How HTML Wins", Dan Bricklin, Alpha Software's new CTO, outlines what he believes is needed for HTML5 mobile app development to become the dominant way to deliver applications in today's mobile world. An excerpt of the article is below.

How HTML5 mobile app development wins!

Excerpt from "How HTML Wins" by Dan Bricklin

"We are now in the mobile era. The "post PC" era. Even new PCs now have touch screens. What about HTML vs. native code? It seems that for most modern-style, touch-enabled applications, system-specific native code is dominant. Is that the way it will be, or will open HTML (with CSS and JavaScript) eventually become the dominant technology for building business applications like it has on the desktop?

Right now, it seems that most apps are native, and not accessed through a browser. Part of the reason for this is that the browser itself gets in the way, both because of the "chrome" around the content area and because of the scrolling and page navigation behavior that can conflict with an app's UI. However, if you access HTML with something other than the built-in browsers, such as a "wrapper" app that just includes a Web View of some sort (UIWebView in iOS, WebView in Android), then those problems go away. In fact, quite a few of the apps in the Apple App Store, and on other platforms, are in large part built that way with either static HTML content included in the app, web-format data retrieved while running from the Internet, or both.

HTML and its related technologies of JavaScript and CSS have provided the basis on which a lot of the content of non-browser-based apps is displayed. Through iOS 6 (we'll see what happens in iOS 7 and beyond depending upon what Apple adds to the iOS SDK), rich text and complex, dynamic layouts are very hard to program natively for iPhones and iPads. The main "simple" way is to use a UIWebView to display HTML.

Hybrid systems like PhoneGap/Cordova (see "An Overview of HTML 5, PhoneGap, and Mobile Apps") let a developer write in relatively complex JavaScript, CSS3, and HTML to produce "normal" looking and behaving apps. Apps created this way are very common and have made it easier for developers to "write once and run multiple places" with their apps.

What's missing?

What we are missing, though, are the easy to use, non-coding systems to let a wider range of people develop and deploy apps for mobile devices. Systems that hide most of the coding and let you concentrate on the UI elements and "business logic" are just starting to emerge. There are those that create HTML5 apps (HTML5 is often the shorthand way of saying recent HTML, JavaScript, CSS3 and related technologies and not just that version of HTML itself). I believe that it will take such "quick and easy for the masses" systems to push HTML5 to the fore in mobile the way that HTML overtook native coding on the desktop. (That is why I joined a company, Alpha Software, that just came out with one such development system, Alpha Anywhere-- see "Why Alpha Anywhere matters".)

Other than HTML5, I don't see any other set of open technologies that will let this happen. As before, you need open technologies for the execution on the device (like HTML was on the desktop) and a mixture of open and proprietary authoring systems and serving technology for the provider of the apps."
Tutorial - Using an Image Gallery Component within Alpha Anywhere to create image rich mobile applications driven by a database
Alpha Anywhere is now shipping and we continue to add cool things, such as these new charting features

About Author

Richard Rabins
Richard Rabins

Co-founder of Alpha Software, Richard Rabins focuses on strategy, sales, and marketing. Richard also served as CEO of SoftQuad International from 1997 to 2001, when it owned Alpha. In addition to his 30 years with the company, Richard played a key role as co-founder, and served as president and chairman of the Massachusetts Software Council (now the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council), the largest technology trade organization in Massachusetts. Prior to founding Alpha, Richard was a project leader and consultant with Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), and a management consultant with Management Decision Systems, Inc. Richard holds a master's degree in system dynamics from the Sloan School at MIT, and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and master's degree in control engineering from University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has served on the boards of Silent Systems, Legacy Technology and O3B Networks, and is co-founder of Tubifi

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