Last week the McKinsey Quarterly released an interesting report discussing the future of Web-centricity. The authors believe there will be a migration to HTML 5 that will create a more seamless integration of devices, thereby increasing the prevalence of smartphones. This topic sounds dry and uninteresting, but if this change happens it could have a critical effect on the types of devices we use and the way we consume media.
I use a BlackBerry Tour, an iPad and a MacBook laptop. Each serves a different role and each has a different capacity for web access through a browser. The least portable, the Macbook, is the most powerful and can access almost any website through Safari. The iPad is also fast and can access most websites, but none that run on Adobe Flash. And my BlackBerry, although portable and convenient, has difficulty supporting almost any website that offers video and multimedia content.
These limitations with smartphone and tablet browsers led most web based services to offer applications for mobile devices and tablets. Apps provide you with a faster and more enhanced product on your smartphone or tablet than you would typically receive through the device’s browser. Because the browsers on my BlackBerry and iPad are so limited, my use of these devices is almost exclusively through my apps.
The McKinsey authors, Kormaz, Lee and Park, predict that most web services will begin building their applications on HTML 5; a browser platform that can deliver the same speed and usability that an app can. HTML 5, they argue, increases the processing power of tablets and smartphones, and narrows the gap between these devices and laptops/PCs. They estimate HTML 5 will be used for more than 50% of mobile apps within the next three to five years. According to Kormaz, Lee and Park, this shift will result in the browser becoming the “universal computing platform” and more seamless integration between your smartphone, tablet and PC.
So what does this mean for you? That depends on who you are. Consumers will benefit from seamless integration across their multiple devices and will find the smartphone playing a larger role in their life. Software developers will no longer have to build specialized apps and will no longer pay distribution fees to Apple and Google for the use of that app. If you provide a web service that involves video and multimedia, this will make your product easier to access and better integrated across your users’ devices.
The article goes into further detail regarding the effects of this change. I would highly suggest you give it a read.
If you are curious to see the other side of the debate, read The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff in Wired Magazine. I won’t go into what they say in this post, but Anderson is one of my favorite writers and it is definitely worth checking out.