The truth is that there is a huge bifurcation in the web browser population evolving. On the desktop, Internet Explorer and Firefox between them have at least 80%+ of the market. Internet Explorer support of HTML 5 Family technologies is practically non-existent, and Firefox is lagging in CSS3 implementation. But in any case, there is an enormous installed base of IE 6,7,8 on the desktop — particularly in the Enterprise — and no sane application developer would develop an application for the Enterprise desktop that didn't run on IE7 at the very least. Except for forward thinking organizations, who deploy latest revision Firefox, Chrome or Safari for their employees, HTML5 technologies are a non-starter.
But it's a completely different story on mobile devices. Not only are product life cycles much quicker (people replace their phone on average every 18 months), but tablets, phones and touch devices are practically on another planet when it come to their browser technology. And that's because the default browser on every device that matters is based on Webkit.
For those of you focused on desktop browser development, Webkit is Apple's browser layout engine (originally derived from the KDE's project KHTML browser), which was picked up by Google and then the Android team (at various fork points) as the layout engine for Google's mobile devices. Now, this would normally be mildly interesting, but just this year, two other things happened that have made Webkit even more central. The first is that RIM announced that it would use Webkit as the layout engine for its next generation browser (due out sometime this year according to unofficial gossip.) The second, is that HP purchased Palm, (with its WebKit based browser as part of WebOS), and it has been reported that WebOS will be heart of HP's future Tablet strategy.
So let's go back to that "every device that matters" comment. Android, iPhone, RIM between them have about 90% share of smartphone app activity. And about 60% of device market share. In our latest survey of Ext JS developers (a mostly Enterprise development-focused crew): only 10% of people who plan to develop a mobile application plan to make it accessible on a non-smartphone.
So what about the other device/browers? Well there's Nokia -- important outside the US -- whose browser technology (although Webkit based) is making progress evolving its Webkit browser to a HTML5 platform, but it's quite behind. And while Opera desktop is excellent, Opera mini for mobile devices seems to have made an odd architectural choice to render on the server side and ship proprietary markup to the device.
So that's basically the story as I see it at least. HTML5 Family technologies are here in 2010 on every mobile device that matters. The short lifecycle means that the installed base will churn very quickly to be HTML5 capable. And we have to say thanks to the WebKit development teams at Apple, Google, RIM and elsewhere for getting us here. (And, we hope that Mozilla Fennec joins the party soon!) We think that the speed and features of a device's browser will soon become one of the primary drivers behind a consumer's mobile device choice.