Apple’s refusal to allow Adobe Flash on its mobile devices, namely the iPad and iPhone, has seen the company come under a lot of fire since the first iPhone was released in 2007. While Apple insists that Flash is a dying format, many in the industry think it poses a threat to the dominance of Apple’s iTunes store, and would allow anyone to make applications for the phone without Apple’s approval.
Apple already provides support to HTML5 in its web browser, and this new programming language opens up a whole new realm of web-based applications for mobile Internet devices.
Let’s take Google’s web-based email, Gmail, as an example. For owners of an iPhone, Gmail was accessed through a Gmail application downloaded from the iTunes store. That application was designed, and then Apple had to approve it before it could be distributed to customers. Further, to use the application, users had to go through an extended process in registering for iTunes, logging in, downloading the application and installing it.
So how does HTML5 change that? Instead of going through the process of downloading the app, users can go straight to the Gmail website through their web browser and use it as if they were on a PC.
The downside is that web-based apps are never going to be as fast as installed (native) apps, because they have to be accessed through a web browser. They do, however, offer a far greater selection because they are not restricted by the approval process of an app store, such as iTunes.
So what can we expect in the future for mobile apps? HTML5 potentially offers a far greater selection of applications for users, but at the expense of some quality control, which services like iTunes offer.