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The future of app development

By Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings.

Some have embraced it, some have discarded it as too far in the future, and some are merely ignoring it. Whatever side of the debate you're on, there's no doubt that HTML5 will change the way developers build applications and Web sites.

"Angry Birds" creator Rovio Entertainment developed an HMTL5 version that lobs avian projectiles at enemy pigs with no need for an app. Pandora Media has used the technology to overhaul its popular Internet radio Web site, which launches more quickly and helps users more easily track others' listening patterns. Publications including Playboy and Sports Illustrated have used HTML5 to let online readers boost the size of photos and rapidly flip through them.

The trend has been fuelled by Apple, Google and Microsoft - rivals that more often disagree about technology choices - by building HTML5 support into their latest Web browsers. So have the Mozilla Foundation, maker of Firefox, and Opera Software. According to, a blog that tracks Web technologies, 34% of the 100 most popular Web sites used HTML5 in the quarter ended in September.

Richard Firth, CEO of MIP Holdings, says there are real business pros to using HTML5. "The development of applications is different to developing Web components, because you have to embed the application separately to access the mobile device the application is meant for," he explains. "HTML5 works as well as the raw application and avoids many of the disadvantages of application development for mobile devices. With the strong foundations set up by previous versions of (X)HTML, we're coming into a new age with a wealth of knowledge and the ability to learn from our past mistakes."

However, a recent report from Gartner predicted that HTML5 is still five to 10 years from becoming a suitable basis for businesses. According to its Hype Cycle report, which the research firm has been publishing since 1995 with a very good track record of predicting how technologies would evolve over time, HTML5 is still ascending the slope to the "peak of inflated expectations." After that, it will need to drop into the "trough of disillusionment" before climbing the "slope of enlightenment" in five to 10 years.

"The market is failing itself if Gartner is right about the five- to 10-year horizon for HTML5," says Firth. "Standards drive who uses technology and how it is used. If HTML5 isn't accepted as the standard, we will see the same kind of proprietary battles we saw with browsers in the early 90s."

He points out that Steve Jobs was aware of the need for an open system that is a standard, and therefore became one of HTML5's biggest proponents. "Besides citing technical concerns with Flash, Steve Jobs argued Apple couldn't allow itself to become dependent on Adobe for critical technology. As a result, on Apple's mobile devices, Web sites that rely on Flash display black boxes where videos or graphics should appear. Adobe rejected this argument, but hedged its bets by developing programming tools that support HTML5 as well as Flash. Adobe has now announced that it will no longer develop new versions of Flash for mobile browsers. This proves HTML5's ability to create Web apps that work both with Android and iOS. If you want to be delivering a Web experience around multiple devices, you have to be doing it in HTML5," he says.

The good news is that the industry seems to be putting its collective weight behind HTML5. "Every company that makes a browser supports HTML5 capabilities, and as it becomes more ubiquitous, HTML5 functionality will be key to the delivery of a superior user experience in applications and Web sites. With so many great features to look forward to, HTML5 has sweeping implications for the developer community," Firth concludes.

MIP Holdings

MIP Holdings

MIP Holdings is one of the world's leaders in the provision of 'risk-based' billing services to mainly, but not exclusively, the financial services industry. The company designs and develops software solutions that focus on the collection of contributions and payment of benefits in the healthcare, employee benefits and life assurance sectors, as well as in personal finance, integrated lending systems and treasury.

With a focus on meeting client-specific requirements and through extensive investment in technology, MIP 'future proofs' its solutions. Strict adherence to industry standards, as well as stringent internal control over standards and quality assurance, ensure the systems MIP develops meet all client expectations.

Expanding into the telecoms sector through its purchase of Itemate, MIP Holdings provides telecoms operations and management solutions to communications service providers worldwide. The company's specific skills in the area of mobile prepaid value chains, prepaid product life cycle management analysis, voucher management systems and mobile financial services enable it to provide an end-to-end service. Its most recent acquisition, Waytag, further enhanced the company's ability to provide a comprehensive solution to its clients through the unique Waytag offering of location-based services.

MIP Holdings was founded in 1989 and is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, with additional offices in Cape Town and Pretoria.