HTML5 - CIOs should think before the adopt new HTML language

It might be a good time to think about HTML5 and its future implementations within your enterprise.


It might be a good time to think about HTML5 and its future implementations within your enterprise.

In essence, HTML5 is a cross-platform programming language for multipurpose web application development. It lacks the performance "bugginess" of Adobe's fading Flash format, and is beginning to impact software development, with many choosing to deploy it within their applications, even within conventional desktop apps. More importantly, because this is an HTML language, apps built using it run well on all manner of devices - a major plus for enterprise users in the BYOD transition.

A recent survey of 1,200 developers identified 75% who are using or plan to use HTML5 within their apps. This follows Adobe's recent declaration that Flex is no longer the best tech for creating and deploying rich content across mobile platforms. That, of course, is something once famously predicted by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.

Some warn the technology isn't yet ready for prime time use within business applications. Yes, it can be an element within such software, but work remains to be done to ensure rock-solid security and effective synch between devices. That work proceeds, with the World Wide Web Consortium promising a final definition of HTML 5 in a few years.

Speaking to Net Magazine, Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester, said: "It isn't simply a question of either/or; there are four viable approaches to choose from: native, hybrid apps (native code with HTML and JavaScript), mobile middleware platforms, and a web approach (HTML5 and JavaScript)."

This doesn't mean you can't implement HTML5 within part of your application development - we're in an age of transition, with hybrid solutions seen as the best way forward.

Salesforce has fully embraced HTML5 for tablets. Speaking at Mobilize 2011, SVP Sean Whiteley said: "We're doing it all. We didn't have to make a decision, we just had to figure out what to do using what. HTML5 is still not there yet, it's very early, but we do believe it will evolve."

The buzz around the standard has created some champions. Kony Solutions CTO Sriram Ramanathan thinks organisations should be prepared to exploit it, but even he cautions for a hybrid model, leveraging the advanced features of desktop apps beside the mobile-savvy HTML5.

In a sense, this conversation mirrors what we probably already know - the enterprise is changing and workforces are going mobile.

"HTML5 functionality is exploding, revolutionizing consumer expectations of mobile apps, and at the same time, BYOD is compelling IT organisations to adapt quickly," Ramanathan said.

"We've heard of 'consumerisation of IT' but what we're really working with is the mobilisation of the entire workforce, from sales to HR to C-level executives. I predict that organisations in 2012 will feel greater pressure to develop engaging mobile enterprise apps with the agility and adaptability to meet current demand and prepare for future advancements."

Don't be drawn in too deeply by the buzz surrounding the evolving web language, as Adrian Roselli states: "Look to the business case. Don't fall for the arguments against enterprise mobile web applications just because someone is afraid of a new paradigm, but instead make sure the resistance is based on sound business and technical considerations. Don't fall for the arguments in favour just because of a knee-jerk reaction against 'stodgy' enterprise models or a gee-whiz fanboy/girl mentality to all things mis-labelled as HTML5."

The take-away here for any finance chief pondering a move to HTML5 is to accept this as the trend for future industry development - but to take a leaf out of the George Bernard Shaw playbook, and accept the "inevitability of gradualness." There's no need to be first to fully embrace the standard, but it's wise to begin moving in that direction today.

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