The mobile app future is hybrid

by Sohini Bagchi    Apr 17, 2013


Choosing the right applications when formulating a mobility strategy can make much difference to an organization. While companies were traditionally relying on native apps, in the recent past HTML5, considered ideal for mobile Web, took the world by storm. As the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has increased pressure on CIOs to deploy suitable mobile applications to accommodate the mobile workforce, experts believe CIOs need to meticulously consider which apps to choose for their enterprise, as the wrong choice of apps can often lead to poor quality and productivity of work and causes huge financial loss.

The pros and the cons

To draw a comparison between the two, native apps are installed directly onto the mobile device and in most cases, run without Internet connectivity. As native apps are developed with a platform-by-platform approach, it often becomes more expensive. In contrast, an HTML5 mobile app can run on diverse platforms. As against HTML, its previous versions, HTML5 helps create feature-rich Web-based applications and is updated remotely. “In other words, HTML5 often reduces the functionality gap between mobile websites and apps,” states Aidan Quilligan, Managing Director of Accenture Mobility, in a recent article published in Forbes.

Quilligan mentions that HTML5 too has its shortcomings, as its implementation is far from uniform. It varies from browser to browser and from mobile platform to mobile platform because different versions must be made for each type of device or operating system. “This widespread “technology fragmentation” makes it difficult for software developers to know which part of HTML5 can be used. HTML5 apps can also be afflicted by slowness and often work erratically when a data connection isn’t available or is intermittent,” mentions Quilligan.

There are also security concerns surrounding HTML5. “Security of data is a key concern, and the vulnerabilities that we associate with HTML applications such as phishing, malware and denial of service attacks are very much prevalent,” says Sanjeev Kumar, Group CIO & President – Business Excellence of Adhunik Group. A recent Sophos report, for example, notes that HTML5 offers cyber criminals “new ways to trick people into passing on potentially sensitive data or installing malware”, and that “the sophisticated presentation layers that can be created using HTML5 ‘blur the lines’ between what’s running on the device and what’s on the internet”. Kumar believes that in the current state, HTLM5 is not the “one-size-fits-all” and needs to be carefully examined before deployment.

A hybrid approach

The various concerns related to native mobile apps and HTML5 for their mobility strategy is prompting enterprises to opt for a shared approach, popularly known as a hybrid apps approach. According to research firm Gartner, hybrid apps, which offer a balance between HTML5-based web apps and native apps, will be used in more than 50 per cent of mobile apps by 2016.

A hybrid app is a native, downloadable app that runs all or some of its user interface in an embedded browser component. Through a hybrid app approach, significant parts of an app are written in Web technology, but with aspects of native code in an HTML5 wrapper. “This means that instead of rewriting the app from scratch for each mobile OS, developers can write at least some of their application code in HTML, CSS and JavaScript and reuse it across devices to enable it to better leverage mobile device capabilities,” mentions Kumar.

According to David Mitchell Smith, Research VP- Gartner, while mobile becomes a requirement for everything, there is no single device that will meet all needs. Gartner forecasts that by the end of 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide and by 2016, PC shipments will be less than 50 per cent of combined PC and tablet shipments.

“While hybrid apps will be the majority of enterprise mobile apps, web technologies like HTML5 will make up the most commonly used languages for building mobile applications by 2015,” says Smith.Quilligan cautions CIOs that as the ecosystem is evolving at a rapid pace, CIOs should invest in an optimized mobile Web presence. Besides, they should continually reassess the state of HTML5-related technologies and explore hybrid approach to get the best results as far as their mobility strategy is concerned.