A just-released survey of more than 5,000 developers put another massive dent in in HTML5's reputation as a development platform for mobile apps, locking in its reputation as one of the most overhyped technologies in years. Apple, though, still shines in the hearts of developers. Android? Not so much.
In the most recent quarterly survey of its own developer base, mobile application development platform vendor Appcelerator found widespread dissatisfaction with nearly every key feature of HTML5. (IDC conducted the actual survey.) Developers dissed the user experience, performance, monetization, fragmentation, distribution control, timeliness of new updates, and security. That covers pretty much the whole HTML5 app gamut.
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It's worth remembering that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said that his biggest mistake to date was betting so heavily on HTML5, and so he's moving the company to native code. Whether that's really a blow to open standards isn't yet clear. But given the enormous gravitational pull of Facebook, there's no doubt that the move blew a huge hole in the future of HTML5. (My colleague Andrew Oliver has a very different view, saying Facebook blew it by not hiring enough top-notch developers.)
The only HTML5 features that earned a thumbs-up were cross-development capabilities and immediate updates, liked by a few points more than 80 percent of the respondents.
Michael King, Appcelerator's director of enterprise strategy, says there is a future for HTML5, but it will be with a limited class of applications. Things like forms and other apps with a low degree of interaction are appropriate, he says, but not immersive and interactive apps. They demand a native environment to have the performance, look and feel, and easy access to native features.
Apple, yes; Android and Windows 8, maybe
Apple maintained its dominance at the top of developers' lists for mobile app development this quarter, with 85 percent of developers very interested in building apps for iOS smartphones and 83 percent similarly focused on iPad apps.
The survey was conducted in August, weeks before iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 were launched, so developers were unaware of the Apple Maps app fiasco. At the time of the survey, the iOS features developers said they were most looking forward to using were Apple Maps (37 percent) and enhanced Siri (22 percent). Despite the Apple Maps problem, "the massive numbers of applications that interface with or use Google Maps, such as Yelp and Facebook, will now rapidly migrate to Apple's new mapping function, leaving Google a much smaller audience for Google-sponsored ads and Google information," King says.
Android, though, did not fare well. Developer interest as measured by the survey has declined for three of the last four quarters. It appears that just under 66 percent of developers are very interested in developing for the Android tablet platform, and 76 percent for the Android smartphone platform. Google's inability to curtail Android's massive fragmentation, even with "Ice Cream Sandwich," has forced developers to focus on the iPad as the leading tablet platform and on the iPhone first for smartphone apps," King says.