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Adobe's revenge on Steve Jobs: HTML5

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Open ... and Shut Despite significant investments from Microsoft, Google, and others, HTML5 remains not quite good enough for a range of apps. So says Mark Zuckerberg, but I also heard that this week from the chief technology officer of a large media company. Rather than gloat over HTML5's long road to native app parity, though, he fretted about how much money is being wasted rebuilding the same app multiple times for disparate platforms.

In other words, HTML5's as-yet unfulfilled promise is minting money for app development shops.

In fact, Vision Mobile's most recent developer survey highlights this fact. For every Rovio making millions on Angry Birds, there are hordes of development shops making money building apps for others. How much more? More than 3 times:

Again, a fair amount of the third-party app development market derives from redundant development of the same app for different platforms, not all of which will even pay equal dividends, as Vision Mobile's survey further demonstrates:

The technology executive with whom I spoke was fed up with the state of affairs, but what's the alternative? After all, as Noah Broadwater, vice president of Information Services at Sesame Workshop, has pointed out, while enterprises "don't want to build the same thing over and over again," they don't have much choice so long as HTML5 remains comparatively weak for rich interactivity, video, and other features, and HTML5 continues to evade standardisation. It's "annoying," he argues, that an HTML5 standard still doesn't exist.

My hope? The company that gave us Flash, Adobe, has jumped into HTML5 with both feet, buying Nitobi, the sponsor of the popular PhoneGap project, and releasing a promising set of HTML5 authoring tools. Adobe, once pilloried by Steve Jobs for inflicting bloated Flash on the industry, may come back to haunt Apple by replacing native iOS development with serious HTML5 development tools. Apple was one of the earliest advocates for HTML5, and Steve Jobs chided Adobe for its proprietary approach to Flash.

But Adobe may have the last laugh, if its HTML5 tools work as advertised (so far, so good) and it is able to advance the state of the art for HTML5 functionality. These are two big "ifs", but for Broadwater, my CTO friend, and other enterprises tired of paying for the excessive inefficiency of fragmented native app development, Adobe offers hope. ®

Matt Asay is vice president of corporate strategy at 10gen, the MongoDB company. Previously he was SVP of business development at Nodeable, which was acquired in October 2012. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe (now part of Facebook) and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register. You can follow him on Twitter @mjasay.

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