C&B Notes

HTML5 Gains Could Impact a Variety of Business Models

Key features of HTML5 programming

HTML5 technology is the fifth generation of the programming language that is a foundation of the Web.  It updates the way elements like text, graphics, photos and animation work inside Web browsers, leading to results that are more like software programs than Web pages.  Don Clark at Wall Street Journal explores the progress with the technology:

A year and a half after Steve Jobs endorsed it in an unusual essay, a set of programming techniques called HTML5 is rapidly winning over the Web.

The technology allows Internet browsers to display jazzed-up images and effects that react to users’ actions, delivering game-like interactivity without installing additional software.  Developers can use HTML5 to get their creations on a variety of smartphones, tablets and PCs without tailoring apps for specific hardware or the online stores that have become gatekeepers to mobile commerce… Silicon Valley investor, Roger McNamee, predicts the technology will let artists, media companies and advertisers differentiate their Web offerings in ways that weren’t practical before. “HTML5 is going to put power back in the hands of creative people,” he says.

The trend has been fueled by Apple, Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. — rivals that more often disagree about technology choices — by building HTML5 support into their latest Web browsers.  So have the Mozilla Foundation, maker of Firefox, and Opera Software ASA.

“When you show people HTML5 applications, they say that doesn’t feel at all like a website,” says Dean Hachamovitch, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.

Interestingly, Jobs’ support could have an adverse impact on Apple moving forward (and a positive outcome for Android and Windows Mobile).  The ability for developers to create apps that work in browsers could allow consumers to get apps they like outside of Apple’s App Store.  This hurts in two ways: it removes a differentiator that Apple has over other platforms (i.e. there are certain apps you can only enjoy on an iPhone) and also could prevent Apple from taking the 30% they currently earn on any app sale through the store.

A shift to HTML5 games that work on many devices, in theory at least, could reduce one of Apple’s advantages — the thousands of apps that work only with its hardware specifically.

Cadir Lee, Zynga’s chief technology officer, predicts companies will keep tailoring apps for hit devices like Apple’s for some time.  Yet he thinks HTML5 could eventually evolve to be an even broader technology movement, like that created with websites that could display almost any content.  “There is another wave of that revolution that is coming,” Mr. Lee says.

Of course, this technology could impact business models well beyond Apple, in both positive and negative ways (e.g. Adobe already announced it has stopped working on Flash for mobile devices). I t will be interesting to see how consumers react to HTML5 driven sites and how companies — from game developers to online advertisers — leverage it to differentiate their offerings.

>> Read more on The Wall Street Journal