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HTML5 versus Native programming?

Like ever so often the world is divided in camps:

  • Those that know, love A and hate B;
  • Those that know. hate A and love B,
  • Those with knowledge to see good elements in both A and B and
  • Those who know little but are either in A or B and cry out loud.

In the computer world it used to be MS vs Mac, than iOS vs Android and now another one is getting more and more popular, HTML5 versus native programming. Later in this post you can read about a research by VisionMobile, with numbers and percentages and if you’re in of the three categories mentioned above: Skip my part and go see the numbers at the next heading.
What it boils down to: If you have to develop a program, application or app it’s getting more and more difficult to ignore the major Operating Systems or platforms. Mac 10.6, Mac 10.9, Win 7, Win 8, Linux, iOS 4,5,6,7, and Android 2.2 tot Kit kat or what’s next. And that is just main stream: Sailfish, Firefox and Tizen are other things to bear in mind.
You thinks that’s complex? Think again….
The Journey to get to the Tizen OS started with Maemo, an OS for Nokia tablets and phones like the N900, then into Meego for the N950 and N9. It also developed into some other sprouts. The N900 I now use as an MP3 player on my desk more or less sired a Samsung smart TV, in vehicle systems as well as tablets and oh yeah, a phone. So that program has to connect to many other drivers that move the hardware, like camera’s, flash, microphone and speakers and of cousre a screen that is not just sending out an image but also happens to be a keyboard that has to react to touches, taps and swipes.
The industry saw the problem and they came up with the idea of using your every day browser as a sort of intermediary. And yes, complexity hit again: IE 6 to 11, Safari, 10 flavours of FF, Opera and then some browsers that are embedded in your devices software. Not to mention the rest, like the lovable dolphin.
They’re smart though so HTML, the basis of the internet, was redeveloped and named HTML5. Now the browser (or rather the site you visit) makes your peripherals do what’s necessary. You can draw a sketch in HTML5, see pictures or clips within the browser and much, much more. It’s flexible because if the browser “knows” the OS of the device you’re using all should be fairly OK.
And then there is native programming. Basically it uses the operating system of the device to get things done. It’s faster (no extra layer of browser activities), simpler as you have to program just for one device and it’s more reliable as it is uniqely connected to that device. fair enough: If you have another device, or part of it, you have to compensate for that by rewriting some of the code. This kind of programming relies on javascript and API’s (Which, in lay mans words mean some kind of dictionary for data to and from a device or dataset, like your twitter feed.)
Naturally: A is soo much better than B :).
Hence we all can campaign, evangelize or simply watch the ships go by and use your device.
As always: It was too simple. Sorry for that. Smarter people identified 4 different methods to program mobile devices. And to clear the skies they have reviewed in real lief who uses what!

Crunched numbers

This is a research report by VisionMobile, in collaboration with Telefonica from Spain,looking into HTML5 development and investigating into the pros and contras when compared to native development. As most people express opinion rather than factsthsi report is to answer some of the answers and stands with hard data.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Web developers have four fundamental routes to the mobile market:
    • direct to mobile browser, (61%)
    • via a web wrapper (a hybrid solution, using e.g. Phonegap), (27%)
    • through a Native JavaScript API platform like BB Webworks(7%)
    • via a web-to-native converter like appcellerator,(5%)

The four routes to market differ in terms of API depth: Among 30,339 Google Play (US) apps,

  • 37% can be implemented using HTML5 via the Mobile browser,
  • 49% via Phonegap,
  • 63% via Appcelerator and
  • 98% via Firefox OS

The most important APIs currently missing from HTML5 are WiFi and Power Management. If implemented, it would result to a 20.83% rise in the number of Android apps that can be created with HTML5.

  • JavaScript performance is mostly a matter of tools and the ability to measure and improve
  • Browser politics play a key role to HTML5 development: Besides Opera, all major browser vendors are mobile OS vendors

This report is based on data from four different sources:

  1. Raw data from VisionMobiles’ Q2 Developer Economics survey (6,000 respondents, April-May 2013).
  2. Analytics from 30,000+ Android apps, available in Google Play.
  3. One-on-one, qualitative interviews with 32 developers, industry experts and tool vendors.
  4. Analysis and taxonomy of 42 HTML5 tools, mapped into categories across Architectural frameworks, UI frameworks, Web wrappers, Web-to-native converters and Native Javascript APIs (e.g. Firefox OS, Tizen, Blackberry Webworks).




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