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HTML5 Is Here Now (It’s Just Not For Your Desktop Yet)

June 11, 2010 | Michael Mullany

HTML5When squid feel threatened, they shoot ink into the water, hoping to confuse and disorient their predators. Something like that is happening right now in the web arena. Adobe and Microsoft are claiming HTML5 is ten years away. Apple is saying "no, no, it's here right now, come look at our amazing HTML5 (urm… CSS3 + Javascript) demos."

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.

"Webwhatnow?"

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.

There are 19 responses. Add yours.

dotnetCarpenter

5 years ago

Where does this leave Ext? Will we see a mobile HTML5 centric version of Ext, without all the bug fix code needed for old desktop browsers?

I wonder if Ext core could be a platform to build an HTML5 centric framework…
Will the development be started by the community or the Ext company?

Eric24

5 years ago

We were just having this discussion a few days ago: When looking at mobile apps, using Ext to create a mobile-browser-based app could provide the same cross-platform benefits as Ext for the desktop. However, support for HTML5 is only part of the equation (or possibly not even important at all, depending on how you look at it). What is needed is “mobile” widgets. A phone (or even tablet) application doesn’t use toolbars and drop-down menus, it uses “pop-up dialogs” with big finger-sized buttons. While those widgets could certainly be built, they aren’t there today. Whether or not HTML5 is used “under the covers” for a “mobile-centric” Ext platform is somewhat immaterial; IMHO, what’s more important is cross-platform support for mobile-centric widgets.

Dm

5 years ago

What would be a great deal IMO is to have extjs support different renderers with automatic switch depending on browser, for example, modern browsers can run lightweighted renderers that will output html+CSS3 code to create same effects using single div and few new styles. We really hate to have such bloated markup today.

Michael Mullany

5 years ago

Eric24. I’d absolutely agree. Mobile is going to require a whole new widget set. Tree expanders, grids, even form controls all need to be redesigned because your finger isn’t a mouse. Luckily, we’re going to have a much better technology feature set to build on, which will actually be cross platform, because most of HTML5 is already cross platform.

Damon Oehlman

5 years ago

Will be watching to see where you guys go with this. I’ve actually got my fingers crossed that you guys might have something in the wings already. While there a quite a few iPhone targeted web ui toolkits, very few take into consideration making interfaces that feel comfortable on Android, Blackberry, etc

Suresh

5 years ago

Is there a framework that supports all the major mobile platforms (iPhone, Andorid, Blackberry etc) just like jQTouch for iPhone?

Dave Chapman

5 years ago

@Suresh One I’ve heard of (and played with on the desktop) is Titanium http://www.appcelerator.com/products/titanium-mobile-application-development/ - this does iPhone and Droid phones or PhoneGap http://www.phonegap.com/about - which again I’ve heard of (but not used) which I think does all Blackberry as well…

Royce

5 years ago

@suresh I’ve been looking at http://rhomobile.com/

I have no clue how it fits in with the Sencha/jQuery announcement but maybe now I won’t have to learn Ruby!

??

5 years ago

HTML5&CSS3 so hot now

DotNetWise

5 years ago

When you say ”come look at our amazing HTML5 (urm… CSS3 + Javascript) demos.” you mean where? smile

WebpageLottery

5 years ago

Parsing websites is gonna be a big challenge to search engines now.

Alex Russell

5 years ago

Michael,

You’ve tersely described the status quo on the desktop, but I see a future that’s not nearly as grim (or far away) as the picture you painted. You might have seen our recent Beta announcement for Google Chrome Frame, a plugin that’s allowing developers in enterprises to target HTML5 while still supporting IE and legacy content.

Other browsers are coming along fast. Firefox has gotten some great support for CSS gradients, has transitions on the way, and is leading in important areas like WOFF.

Progress in the open web isn’t a regimented progression along a straight line, but if we step back only a very little bit, things are looking up.

Regards

Michael Mullany

5 years ago

@DotNetWise The Apple HTML5 demos are here http://www.apple.com/html5/

Michael Mullany

5 years ago

@Alex I see Chrome Frame as a neat product, but I don’t see it getting much traction especially since I anticipate Microsoft will fight the spread of Chrome Frame with threats to Enterprises to drop eligibility for Windows desktop support contracts. But perhaps I’m overly paranoid about Microsoft (ha ha ha)

Michael Mullany

5 years ago

@Alex. That said. I think lots of Enterprises will just start deploying a full Chrome browser alongside their IE to get HTML5 coverage. You folks at Google will need to build good user and permissions management that integrates well with Active Directory. We tried to build this at Netscape eons ago for the Netscape browser, but we did a really bad job of it. It was called Mission Control Desktop.

Ingo-Stefan Schilling

4 years ago

Hi,

from a business perspective, I would recommend to create/expand the framework to support all types of platforms, including the desktop and others like f.e. TV.

Touch display are not only a mobile device theme, it is at least arriving in the Windows and Mac Desktop world and it is expected that it has been arrived within the next two to three years - according to plans of display producers at least wink

Also, even it sounds strange for the moment, TV- AND beamer manufacturers are looking into it (both using a “like” the former Natal project of MS (called now Kinect) type of “touch”).

Consequently and if you are looking into platform and HTML5 and ext and ... you should (need to) take this development into account.

The size “problematic” of buttons is the smallest issue to solve here, more important is bandwith and code (in terms of algorithm performance and consequently electricity consumption).

Again, I know this might sound strange on a first glance, again smile - but if you investigate the whole thing in deep, you come to this two factors. Electricity consumption means in most cases (due EU and some global regulations) “low-end” processors at least for TV stations (believe it or not, they are (currently and for the next 1 to 2 years) usually slower than mobile processors and their environment is badly implemented at ALL TV manufacturers… however, all of them want to go into the “Internet” market with Internet capable devices - even though they are acting partially strange right now, the direction is given and more and more customers are willing to follow this path.

So, from a vendor side, if I am looking for a me supporting framework and if I am creating an ((multi-)medial) application, I would choose a framework that does a real multi-platform job and keeps me (far) away for the upcoming mess smile

I hope I can count on you wink

James Pearce

4 years ago

I hear you, and I’m excited too. But “every device that matters” is condescending, and maybe a little naive.

Symbian continues to have significant worldwide penetration (‘what? people outside the US use web apps?’) - so that has to be important to you, however disdainfully the valley elite views Nokia.

Windows CE/Mobile/Phone, surely ranked highly in your enterprise-minded developers’ definition of ‘smartphone’, has dubious browser capabilities… isn’t that something of a gap in the logic?

(And that’s before I even get started on the usual rant about one’s obligations to help support the mobile web medium in less developed parts of the world…)

But anyway, I’m definitely with you in principle wink

Frank M. Eriksson

4 years ago

You got the order wrong here, “[...] WebKit [...] was picked up by Google and then the Android team”. Actually the Android team picked up WebKit before the Chrome Team, they even begun developing the android platform somewhere before 2003 (Read as: All those claims that Google copied Apple is plain wrong, but there exists a posibility that iPhone is Apples response to Google).
[Sources: http://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/small_12.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system) ]

And about Nokia, Finland usually makes great stuff (Linux, and whatnot) but Nokia devices is not up to par… Right now I would guess that their decition to use MSFT WIndows 7 in their upcoming mobile devices is a big miss on their side, I’ve read a lot of rants about Windows Mobile from programmers that targets that platfrom. And I guess that from a browser perspective, there is no chance that their mobile browser would be any better than the one that exists for desktop (as you noted that other mobile devices browsers is).

I dunno know if it is true, but it is said that Sweden is the worlds most iPhone densest country. For the most part I’ve only seen oldies use the iPhone here in Sweden, and younger people use Android (like me), Nokia and various other wierd stuff. I saw one a phone that only supported touch when you dialed a phone number… I would not go so far as to say that is is a touch-mobile…

Well, well, we are in interesting times right now. And I guess that my Webdesign buissnies would be better if I somehow could trick my customers to switch to FF4 or Google Chrome first.

Judith

3 years ago

Your story was really informative, tkhnas!

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