Today is a good morning here in Boston. The mighty Bruins have tied up the Stanley Cup Playoffs with another decisive win against the Vancouver Canucks. I maintain the theory I tweeted that the winner of the Cup should be decided based upon the total goals accumulated during the seven game series. I think some of my Canadian friends might disagree with that, but oh well. After catching up on the morning’s news, I caught wind of the news that The Financial Times was launching its new mobile app.
This is a pretty interesting piece of news on multiple fronts. First of all, I am a big fan of The Financial Times, so I welcome anything they can do to improve their mobile experience. The PCMag article makes a couple of interesting comments, including the fact that this new app actually circumvents the Apple AppStore. Now while I typically don’t feel the need to comment on pure consumer focused mobile issues, this does raise the question moving forward of the monetization strategies for AppStores. Now mind you, I am personally a big fan of “native” apps on mobile devices because (for now) they are the best way to capture a completely native mobile user experience. There’s no question however that there is a very important trend moving forward for developing HTML5 based applications because they are – by design – cross platform.
But are they really?
I fired up my trusty iPhone4 and sure enough, I got a nice user experience. Kudos to the Financial Times for developing such a nice mobile app. I then tried the “app” on my BlackBerry PlayBook. The web page says “The new FT app for iPad and iPhone.” I scroll down a bit further and see another title that says “Optimised for your iPad and iPhone.”
So the new HTML5 application is NOT cross-platform. Hunh???? Isn’t that supposed to be the whole point of HTML5….we finally break free from the shackles of having to develop applications for each platform?
And hence the point of today’s missive. As with most things, there is a gap between goals/objectives and the realities of the day. The Financial Times (and others) will still need to customize the HTML5 application for the various platforms. That means they are going to need a HTML5 application for the iPhone/iPad (it looked different by the way on my iPod), that is then tweaked for BlackBerry, Windows Phone, webOS, Symbian and the various flavors of Android (both in smartphone and tablet forms).
Does this at all sound familiar to the challenges we currently face in developing mobile applications? It most certainly should IMO.
The Financial Times is a wonderful example that – at least as of today – HTML5 is NOT the panacea of mobile that it is cracked up to be. Mobile application development – particularly mobile enterprise application development – is NOT a trivial undertaking. We still need a fair bit of customization for the various operating systems and device form factors, and if anything, this reinforces in my mind the need for tools to develop, deploy, manage and update mobile enterprise applications in the most effective and efficient manner possible (particularly when you realize the need for your own mobile enterprise app store).