Since 2004, as part of our annual end of year review, it's been a ReadWriteWeb tradition to select the startup that we think shows the most promise for the next calendar year. Back in 2004 it was Feedburner, which went on to be acquired by Google. Last year we chose location data provider SimpleGeo. It too went on to be acquired, a couple of months ago by UrbanAirship.

This year's Most Promising Company is tapping into two trends that are rapidly increasing in importance: Mobile Web and the next version of the Web's markup language, HTML5. With less than 30 employees, this little startup has big goals. It wants to be the Red Hat of the Mobile Web. Who then is our Most Promising for 2012? Read on to find out.

ReadWriteWeb's Most Promising Company for 2012 is appMobi, headquartered in Lancaster, PA. The company styles itself as "the world's leading HTML5 development ecosystem." It offers a variety of products, including a development platform, a mobile browser called Mobius, HTML5 mobile games and other mobile apps that run in the browser.

appMobi provides an impressive number of HTML5-based features as part of its developer platform. These include user authentication, 'touch to buy', push notifications, user analytics, and on-device app updates. It has about 27,000 developers on the platform and thousands of apps have been built with it.

The Rise of HTML5

The main reason appMobi exists is to help other companies build mobile applications that run in the browser, using HTML5. One of the advantages of HTML5 is that it can be used to build websites - whether on the desktop or on mobile - that have the advanced functionality typically associated with native applications. But unlike with native apps, HTML5 enables developers to build one site and have it run over multiple platforms. From Windows on desktops, to Android on smartphones, to iOS on the iPad.

HTML5 is a fast evolving technology and many online companies are opting to use it, instead of building separate mobile apps for each smartphone platform (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and so on). In July, appMobi CEO Dave Kennedy told ReadWriteWeb that his company "is committed to accelerating the industry's move to HTML5." He said that AppMobi sees HTML5 as "the unifying technology for mobile."

A Busy 2011 for appMobi

Throughout 2011, appMobi has regularly released new features. In February, appMobi announced its MobiUs web browser for mobile. Unfortunately, as of time of writing, Apple has booted MobiUs out of its App Store for unspecified reasons. appMobi assures us that it will be back soon.

In July, appMobi launched a 1-Click payment technology called cloudKey. The product secures users' credit card information for online purchases on their device, not on remote servers.

In August, appMobi released its 1Touch digital wallet. It features Amazon-style "click to buy" on mobile or desktop HTML5 web sites and apps. Also in August, appMobi launched a new XDK as a Web app available in the Chrome Web app Store. It followed this up in September with a Chrome App Packager, enabling developers to build Web apps and browser extensions and wrap them for submission to the Chrome Web Store.

In November, appMobi made much of its HTML5 device-side APIs available as open source projects.

2012

Although appMobi has been very busy in 2011 and we've named it our Most Promising Company for 2012, it faces some stiff competition. Last month, Facebook acquired a very similar company: Strobe Corp. Indeed, most of the big online companies are putting a lot of resources behind HTML5 development. Google and Adobe have been active on this front over 2011.

So appMobi has a difficult road ahead. Although with its many product releases and initiatives over 2011, appMobi has set the foundation for continued growth in 2012. Of course... it could also end up being acquired, like some of our past Most Promising companies!

Let us know in the comments what you think of our choice for Most Promising for 2012. What other promising companies you have got your eye on?