One of the big topics of discussion regarding mobile is whether the mobile app market is moving towards native apps that are OS/device specific, or whether it is moving towards device neutral platforms such as HTML5. Today the mobile market is marked by a combination of native apps, device neutral apps and hybrid apps which fall somewhere in between. One of the big drivers for native apps has been the richer user experience and capability possible through such apps. Mobile operating systems have allowed applications to access lower level features available in mobile devices such as the camera, GPS and local data storage. It is these very features, not historically supported through device independent platform such as HTML, that have brought some of the most compelling capabilities to mobile devices and the market. But the down side to native apps is that it has made it much more difficult to build and deploy apps broadly since doing so has required separate apps to be built to run on each environment.
In an effort to achieve some of the best of both worlds hybrid approaches have been developed which wrap applications designed to be largely OS independent with code designed to provide access to the lower level device features and capability. A number of vendors including OpenText have developed mobile frameworks to facilitate the creation of such hybrid apps. See for example the Mobile Wave Platform.
Meanwhile , HTML standards have continued to mature and provide a richer and richer experience and feature support. Recently OpenText released mobile BPM capability which relies on HTML5 and therefore runs on any device with HTML5 browser support (see http://www.name.com/). This allows companies to achieve major economies by building once and deploying broadly across a diverse set-up mobile users and devices. But on top of this, these mobile apps rely on the same BPM design environment and underlying framework (access control, system integration, business rules, workflow and other features) used to create process oriented desktop apps. This allows mobile applications to automatically leverage the deep capabilities that already exist in a BPM platform while allowing organizations to deploy and update highly integrated mobile applications in record time and at dramatically lower costs.
So what does the future hold? In my opinion over the next several years we will continue to see a combination of all three of the above approaches. However, we will see a convergence toward hybrid and device neutral platforms. The economic pressure to move towards greater platform independence is simply tremendous. With the explosion of mobile device usage, buyers—both consumer and corporate—want their mobile investment to be more portable and ubiquitous. HTML continues to close the gap with device specific capabilities. Device makers appear to be responding as well. Strategy Analytics predicts sales of 1 billion HTML5 capable phones in 2013, up from 336 million in 2011. At the same time this does not mean that device specific apps and capabilities will disappear. Hybrid and native platforms will also continue to grow and, among other things, provide a mechanism for implementing features or capability not yet supported via broader standards such as HTML 5.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave a comment below and we can discuss.
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