HTML5 Is An Oncoming Train, But Native App Development Is An Oncoming Rocket Ship

HTML5 Is An Oncoming Train, But Native App Development Is An Oncoming Rocket Ship

HTML5 versus native apps. It’s a debate as old as — well, at least three years ago. And pretty much since the beginning of that debate, there has been a general underlying current among the geek community that HTML5 is good and native is bad. Native is what we have to deal with as we wait for HTML5 to prevail.

But what if that never happens?

Let’s be honest: right now, most HTML-based mobile apps are a joke when compared to their native counterparts. It’s not even remotely close. In fact, you could argue that the discrepancy isn’t much smaller than it was three years ago. And considering that the App Store was only on the verge of launching at that point, in many ways, the discrepancy is even bigger. Just look at mobile games now, for example.

Developers often state their love of HTML5 and their commitment to it going forward. But many have no choice. Native app development is not only difficult, it’s expensive.

These days, if you’re going to do native apps, you at least have to support iOS and Android. That means at least two developers for each different language, and preferably more. And if your startup is big enough or hot enough (like Foursquare, for example), you’ll probably want to have apps for Windows Phone, Blackberry, and webOS as well (which, to be fair is largely HTML-based).

Talking to developers, this is the single biggest pain point on the mobile side of things. And many talk about HTML5 as the remedy. A number now choose to build an iOS app then settle on a web app for Android at first. Others do both iPhone and Android but only offer rudimentary sites for the other platforms.

But the fact that very few, if any, choose to go HTML5-only is telling. If we were anywhere close to the language being a unifier and savior, at least some would. We’re not close.

Let’s look at the debate from the perspective of the three hottest technology companies right now: Apple, Google, and Facebook.

Apple is basically all-in on native apps. Google is half-in on native apps, half-in on HTML5. Facebook is seemingly all-in on HTML5 (at least going forward).

Apple is very interesting in this regard. When the iPhone launched in 2007, the only native apps were the ones made by them. Developers were told to build web apps in order to get on the device. Who knows if Apple planned third-party native apps all along or if they pivoted when they saw the opportunity, but a year later, we had the App Store.

It’s the single reason there’s any debate right now.

Apple is now obviously native app all the way. But it’s on their own terms. When a developer makes an app that Apple doesn’t like in some way, they recommend that they make an HTML5 app to bring it to one of their devices.

It’s more or less a “my way or the highway” approach — it’s just a nice way of putting it. Apple is using the hype around HTML5 to their advantage here. They know that those apps can’t compete with their native apps, but so many people are so bullish about the future of the technology (and, to be fair, Apple seems to be as well at least on the Safari side of things) that Apple is able to play that to their advantage.

They might as well say, “you’re welcome to build an HTML5 app *snicker*.”

Google is significantly more gray with regard to their position.

At the past two Google I/O conferences, all we’ve heard about from the search giant is HTML5-this and HTML5-that. But their actions speak louder than their words.

Google has done some great work with HTML5 — some of their mobile web apps are quite good. In fact, they’re arguably the best web apps out there. But they too are nowhere near native app good.

And take something like their Jules Verne logo today — it utilized the iPhone’s accelerometer via the HTML5 baked into Safari to move around. Very cool. But would anyone have thought twice about it if it were a part of a native app? No.

It seems like Google is well aware of this native app/HTML5 app discrepancy. That’s why we’re seeing an increasing number of their once HTML-based apps going native. And it’s not only on their own Android platform, but on the iPhone as well.

And that’s not all. Recent reports underscore Google going a bit native app crazy. There’s apparently a big push inside the company to hire any good app developers that they can get their hands on. And they’re even offering for them to work inside Google as their own startups. Essentially, it sounds like the Googleplex is becoming an app incubator of sorts. One that pays a salary.

But wait, this is Google. Again, aren’t they supposed to be the main torchbearers of the HTML5 movement? Yes. But they’ve also been hedging their bet this entire time. That’s exactly why development of both Android and Chrome OS has continued totally separate from one another.

Chrome OS, an operating system built entirely around HTML5 is still very much in beta mode. Android, an operating system built entirely around native apps is exploding with growth. Which would you back right now?

And then there’s Facebook.

Speaking at the Inside Social Apps conference last month, Facebook CTO Bret Taylor made it very clear that HTML5 is a the key focus for the social network in 2011. He reiterated as much to me when I spoke with him afterwards.

In fact, Facebook is so committed to HTML5 that they’re going to be offering tools to their broad development community in order to help them bring their apps up to speed. Most significantly, this includes games, which are today largely based on Flash.

Taylor echoed the hardships that startups face with mobile development across several platforms these days. Facebook, while much larger than a typical startup, still works in relatively small teams. And while he said that structural changes would help in 2011, they too are betting that HTML5 is the ultimate unifier.

Facebook has an odd history in the mobile app space. When the iPhone first launched, they had easily the best mobile web-based app — which was developed by Joe Hewitt. When native apps were finally allowed, Hewitt built that as well, and again, it was clearly one of the best apps available (and the top downloaded app of all time for iOS).

Then Hewitt decided he was fed up with some of the App Store rules. So he stopped doing iOS work. The Facebook app stood neglected for quite some time. And while it’s better today, it still has the same basic look and feel of the app that Hewitt built.

Meanwhile, on the Android side of things, it has been a nightmare. The Facebook Android app has long been a joke when compared to its iPhone brother. Facebook keeps slowly improving it, but it’s still not as good.

On the tablet side of things, Taylor said the iPad was an unfortunate casualty of Facebook’s lack of mobile team structure leading up to that device’s launch. He spoke about the importance of having a tablet-optimized version of the service soon.

That seemed to indicate that this would be an HTML5-based web app. But I’ve heard reports from two different sources that Facebook has been internally testing a native iPad app in recent months.

Maybe they won’t release such an app. And maybe they take an HTML5-only approach to tablets. But I certainly wouldn’t bet against a native iPad app. And maybe one optimized for Honeycomb as well.

It sounds as if Facebook is all about HTML5 — except when native apps offer a better experience. Which, love it or hate it, is still always.

And such a stance is more or less the attitude that everyone with the necessary resources seems to have. And that’s the point. After all these months and years, we’re still debatingthe HTML5 versus native app thing — but it still has yet to be a contest.

Everyone seems to pay HTML5 plenty of lip-service. But look at their actions. Apple, Google, Facebook, and developers are all focusing on native apps, not HTML5 apps.

And look at the platform pipelines. Android is (finally) about to get in-app purchasing. iOS is likely to (finally) get a revamped Push Notification system with the next iteration of iOS. Android Honeycomb will offer developers a whole new set of tools and APIs. Both platforms are likely to expand quickly into NFC and everything that can offer.

All of that will be native app only. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It was actually Hewitt who said it best when he ripped the state of web development a new one last year with a series of tweets. The best was: “I want desperately to be a web developer again, but if I have to wait until 2020 for browsers to do what Cocoa can do in 2010, I won’t wait.”

If HTML5 is an oncoming train, native app development is an oncoming rocket ship. And everyone seems to know that’s not going to change anytime soon. Even if they don’t want to admit it, their native apps speak for them.

Facebook Analytics Platform Kontagent Now Tracking 100M Users

Facebook Analytics Platform Kontagent Now Tracking 100M Users; 15B Messages Per Month

Kontagent, an fbFund winner and social analyticsplatform, has hit a milestone today. The startup is now tracking over 100 million monthly active users and over 15 billion messages per month. That’s up from 70 million monthly active users in October.

Kontagent’s platform gives Facebook app developers, game studios and publishers detailed data of demographics based on geographic location, age groups, gender, user engagement times, social event interaction and other variables. The new version allows developers to track and optimize advertising efforts, user virality, in-app mechanics, virtual goods, currency monetization, and more.

The startup, which has raised $6 million, to date, also extends its analytics platform to iPhone and web applications using Facebook Connect.

The company says that it has grown its monthly active user base by over 300% in the past 12 months and counts a number of well known game developers as clients, including EA, Sony, Ubisoft, Take2, THQ, Konami, Perfect World, Gaia and Tencent.

HTC to debut Android phone with dedicated Facebook button

HTC to debut Android phone with dedicated Facebook button

Do you know how much time is lost having to jump out of an application to click on the Facebook icon (or widget) on your home screen? That 0.4 seconds, when done hundreds of times each and every day (assuming you ever leave the Facebook screen in the first place) can really add up — precious time you could spend updating your status and liking your girlfriend’s brother’s Business Cat wall post. INQ figured it out, and HTC may have found a way to restore those precious seconds, as well. According toThe Financial Times, the company plans to introduce an Android device with a dedicated Facebook button (note: not a ”Facebook phone”). We wouldn’t expect anything crazy out of the clicker, however, as the dream crushers known currently as “people familiar with the device” say its purpose is to take you to the Facebook front page — if you want something more. HTC is expected to introduce it this month, and if we were betting folk, we’d say that meant Mobile World Congress next week.

Internet Explorer 9 RC now available to download, tracking protection in tow

Internet Explorer 9 RC now available to download, tracking protection in tow

The Internet Explorer 9 beta pleasantly surprised us with Microsoft’s renewed competitiveness in the web browser wars, and the pinnable, hardware-accelerated experience is getting even better today — you can download the IE9 release candidate right now, which streamlines and beautifies the tabbed browsing layout considerably, adds those previously promised, fully customizable tracking protection lists for privacy and freely toggled ActiveX filters, as well as an updated Javascript engine, geolocation support via HTML5, the ability to pin web apps to the taskbar, and a host of assorted speed and functionality improvements. Find the files you need at our source link below, and let us know if the Beauty of the Web captivates you this time around.

HP Pre 3 Goes Giant With a 3.6-inch Screen, 1.4GHz Processor

Palm/HP is targeting the Pre 3 as a “business”-class phone, even though it’s got the same body shape as the previous Pres. It has their largest keyboard, a larger 3.6-inch 480×800 display, and a 5-megapixel camera.

It will be 802.11b/g/n, HSPA+ and EVDO world phone, 8GB or 16GB storage, memory (same as) Pre 2, and a processor that runs at 1.4GHz. So it’s definitely a larger phone for people who think the HP Veer is too small.

Full size

When you put the Pre 3 on a Touchstone wireless charger dock, it goes into exhibition mode, which shows you a clock, a calendar, or whatever else you want to display.

Big thanks to Borrow Lenses for the camera gear.

HP Pre3 Introduces the New Look of Business for the 24-hour Life

Bigger and better touchscreen, more processing power and all-new keyboard deliver professional productivity and personal connectivity

PALO ALTO, Calif., Feb. 9, 2011

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» View the press kit

For professionals who require powerful mobile productivity with an eye on personal connectivity, HP today announced the versatile HP Pre3 smartphone running HP webOS.

With a large 3.58-inch touchscreen, fast 1.4-GHz processor and a full slide-out keyboard, Pre3 is a multitasking professional workhorse that’s perfectly balanced for speed and serious fun.

Pre3 is one of the products HP announced today to introduce a unique experience for customers around connected mobility. It’s one of the building blocks in HP’s vision to seamlessly connect all your worlds through the power of HP webOS.

“In the suite of webOS products we’re introducing today, Pre3 is our premier phone, designed for the speed of business,” said Jon Rubinstein, senior vice president and general manager, Palm Global Business Unit, HP. “It enables professionals to accomplish more of their important workday tasks while easily keeping their fingers on the pulse of their personal lives.”

Pre3 is the ideal smartphone for multitasking professionals who rely on advanced messaging and voice capabilities to stay connected with all aspects of their busy lives.(1) With a slim design and high-capacity battery,(2) it is comfortable to carry and use all day. The phone’s fast performance and large, high-resolution display accentuate the unique webOS experience for both professional and personal use.

The portrait layout enables optimal readability for email, attachments and web, and the new vertical slide-out keyboard – the widest and largest keyboard on any webOS phone to date – helps ensure quick and comfortable error-free typing. It’s ideal for heavy email and messaging needs, web browsing, enjoying multimedia and for staying in touch with business and social circles.(1,3)

For professionals who demand more than productivity

With an array of features that are critical for professionals balancing work and personal use – including the speed of 3G and Wi-Fi,(1) a comfortable keyboard for typing and a large vivid touchscreen – Pre3 offers the best of both worlds on the powerful HP webOS platform:

Business-class email – Pre3 offers business-class email and encrypted data storage to protect critical information and supports industry-standard VPN to connect to corporate networks. You can read and write email with ease, view your email accounts together or easily toggle between them.(1,3)
More ways to connect – With the HP Synergy feature, you just have to sign in to your Facebook®, Google, Microsoft® Exchange, LinkedIn and Yahoo!® accounts. Your information – email, contacts, calendars – automatically populates your phone and stays updated so it’s always at your fingertips.(3) Integrated messaging conveniently combines all your text messages, picture messages and IM conversations with one person into a single view, and you can connect through SMS, MMS, Google Talk, AIM and Yahoo! Messenger.
The whole web – Pre3′s high-performance web browser offers support for HTML5 features and Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1 beta for access to rich, Flash-based web content on the phone’s big, vivid display.(1)
Video calling – Pre3 has a front-facing camera, a great speaker and noise cancellation for a state-of-the-art video calling experience.(1,4)
True Multitasking – webOS works the way you do. Begin an email, pause to answer a call, check your calendar, send a text, then switch back to your email without closing anything. Pre3 lets you easily manage multiple open applications and notifications using natural touch gestures. Whether you’re planning a meeting or a night on the town, webOS keeps related items together so managing multiple tasks is easy.(5)
Just Type – Start an email, create a message, update your status and search your favorite websites – all before you’ve even opened an app. Because webOS works the way you do, whenever you want to do something on your Pre3 – whether it’s emailing, texting, searching or almost anything – just type.
Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite – HP is working with Quickoffice to include the Quickoffice Connect Mobile Suite, which offers support for viewing Microsoft Office Word and Excel and provides integration with a variety of services, including Google Docs and Box.net.
Touch-to-share – With HP’s new and exclusive touch-to-share feature, you’ll be able to simply tap your Pre3 phone to the new HP TouchPad to share web addresses between devices.(6)
GPS – Get where you need to be with built-in GPS on Pre3. Apps such as Fandango and OpenTable work with GPS to pinpoint your exact location, get directions, find nearby places of interest and provide turn-by-turn directions.(7)
Apps to keep you connected – The webOS App Catalog features thousands of apps for fast and easy access to all the things you need to keep your day moving, such as weather, news, hotel and restaurant reviews and reservations, flight info and games.(8) Mobile social networking apps such as Facebook and Twitter allow you to stay connected throughout your hectic day and update your status and upload pictures in real time.
HP mobile hotspot – Pre3 also supports the HP mobile hotspot, enabling your phone to act as a mobile Wi-Fi router so you can share wireless internet connectivity with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices, including the new HP TouchPad, as well as notebooks, gaming devices and portable media players.(9)
Pre3 is compatible out of the box with HP Touchstone (sold separately). The webOS Exhibition feature lets you run apps designed specifically for HP Touchstone – showing you anything from today’s agenda to a slideshow of your photos – turning charge time into useful time.(10)

Pre3 is one of three webOS products announced today (see separate announcements for HP Veer and HP TouchPad). Each product plays a distinct role in the growing webOS family, designed to meet the varying needs of customers in a rapidly evolving mobile landscape.

Availability

The HP Pre3 smartphone is scheduled to be available in the summer. Exact pricing and availability will be announced at a later date.

HP Pre3 features and specs
HP webOS
High-speed connectivity(1)
Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8x55 1.4-GHz processor
3.58-inch multitouch screen with a vibrant, 24-bit color, 480 x 800 resolution display
Gesture area, which enables simple, intuitive gestures for navigation
Redesigned vertical slide-out QWERTY keyboard with backlight
8 or 16 gigabytes (GB) of internal storage(11)
High-performance browser with full access to the web, including support for Adobe Flash Player 10.1 beta for access to rich, Flash-based web content(1)
Wireless connectivity:
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n with WPA, WPA2, WEP, 802.1X authentication(1)
Integrated GPS (and A-GPS)(7)
Bluetooth® wireless technology 2.1 + EDR with A2DP stereo Bluetooth support
Wi-Fi router functionality for up to five devices using HP mobile hotspot(9)
Multimedia options, including music, photos, video recording and playback, a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash and a 3.5 mm stereo headset jack
Rear-facing autofocus camera with flash, HD camcorder (capable up to 720p video recording)
Front-facing VGA fixed-focus camera for live video calling(4)
Email, including EAS (for access to corporate Microsoft Exchange servers) and personal email support (Google Gmail push, Yahoo!, POP3, IMAP)(3)
Robust messaging support (combining IM, SMS and MMS capabilities)(12)
Proximity sensor, light sensor, accelerometer and compass
Removable, rechargeable 1,230 mAh battery
USB mass storage mode to transfer media and other files quickly between desktop and device
Ringer switch, which easily silences the ringer with one touch
Compatible with HP Touchstone (sold separately)
Dimensions: 111 mm x 64 mm x 16 mm (4.37 inches x 2.52 inches x .63 inches)
Weight: 156 grams (5.5 ounces)
More information about HP Pre3 is available at www.palm.com/Pre3.

HP TouchPad Is Their 10-inch webOS Tablet

HP TouchPad Is Their 10-inch webOS Tablet

The TouchPad is 1.6 pounds, 13.7 mm thick, measures 9.7inches (1024×768), a 1.3 megapixel webcam, video calling, and HP’s Beats branding. Specs are pretty similar to the iPad. Other stats:

802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, 16 or 32GB, and twice the memory of Pre 2 (1GB, I believe.) Also, a 1.2GHz dual core processor. (Or, rather, 2.4GHz if you measure both cores.)





Here’s how webOS works on a tablet. The cards are still there, representing open applications. You close apps the same way you do on webOS phones, by flicking them off the screen.

Synergy also syncs your info from your webOS phone and the Touchpad tablet.

The interface definitely looks like a blown-up webOS, with the dock at the bottom, cards for multitasking and their notification/status bar on the top.
There are also accessories like a Touchpad stand and a Bluetooth keyboard. The dock also charges via Touchstone, their wireless charging dock (which charges even inside the case).

The Touchpad also syncs with your Pre 3 in that they share text messages and phone calls over Bluetooth, so you don’t need to dig out your phone if you’re on your tablet.

Using apps is the same as on older Palm phones. You launch apps using the dock on the bottom or using the app launcher screen.

Emailing supports multiple accounts, of course, and looks very similar to email on the iPad. The left side gives you the list of messages, and the right side is the actual message. You can also slide everything over, giving you the ability to select between accounts.

HP is also emphasizing the fact that the TouchPad supports Flash. FLASH.

Notifications are unobtrusive, because they pop up on the top right notification bar, and you can dismiss each one by swiping them off to their side. If you actually want to deal with a notification, you can tap in and open the proper application.

Cool keyboard option: There are four different sizes, from S to XL, depending on how large your fingers are, which is pretty great for personalization. Typing is one of the worst things on tablets. Also good is the inclusion of the number keys on the keyboard.

TouchPad also includes social networking inside their photos app, like Facebook. And you can print from the tablet to network printers on your home network. You can also view and respond to Facebook comments from inside your photo as well (if you had uploaded it to Facebook).

The TouchPad is going to have magazines and newspapers, such as Sports Illustrated, and, of course, a Kindle app.

iControlPad finally available for order, shipping next week

iControlPad finally available for order, phone gamers finally get physical controls

The iControlPad hasn’t been flirting with vaporware status for quite as long as Duke Nukem Forever but certainly long enough to make us wonder if we’d ever be able to use it to kick some in-game butt before we ran out of bubblegum. We’ve been tantalized by this formerly iPhone-exclusive adapter since way back in 2008, when it was going to be a simple case with a dock connector that would let you control those emulators with greater ease. It’s grown significantly since then, the latest version shown above — the final version, as it happens. It’s now available for order at a cost of $74.99, and we’re happy to say that ditching that dock connector and going for Bluetooth has expanded support well past the iDevice crowd, including things like the Motorola Blackflip, Blackberry Touch, and the now-classic G1. However, we’re told not all games and emulators will work with the thing, so your mileage may vary. First devices ship next week, so make with the clicking.

Dell promises a 10-inch Windows 7 tablet later this year

We’ve got very little information here, but Dell’s just announced that it’s planning to bring a 10-inchWindows 7 tablet to market later this year. According to the press release, it will be aimed at commercial and enterprise markets. Sound familiar? Yep, it sounds like a HP Slate in the making, but let’s hope this one is faster and sticks to its shipping schedule. We’ve got no other details for now, but we’re hoping to dig up more at the “Dell Means Business” event, which should be starting any moment now.

The HP TouchSmart Computer Designed After a Scorpion’s Tail

The HP TouchSmart Computer Designed After a Scorpion’s Tail

 The HP TouchSmart Computer Designed After a Scorpion's Tail / computers

Crafting a new computer is tough. Everyone loves touch—fingers are winning interfaces. But pawing an upright monitor is physically tiring. So? HP’s design team cleverly brought the monitor down to you. And we’ve got their concept sketches.

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HP design guru Randall Martin walked us through the process. They know that their old TouchSmart form factor wasn’t sustainable. It was a nightmare on elbows, and just sort of felt wrong. I’m fine pointing away like that at an ATM, or when buying movie tickets—but checking the news, or writing an essay? Unbearable. Our bodies aren’t meant to work that way, as much as our hands want to drag and pinch and swipe. But the convergence of our hands and our computers is, more than inevitable, well on their way. The desktop is the next stop. But it has to stop sucking. HP’s new TouchSmart series is mostly unremarkable as an actual computer the software is sloppy, the specs are a desktop jammed into a chunky slice, and the touchscreen itself is wonky and inaccurate. But they’ve nailed one thing—design. And not looks. It’s face is as unremarkable as its guts. But the TouchSmart’s new ability to gracefully 60 degrees down into a tabletop position is brilliant, and the only hope of the touch desktop, if it has any future at all.

Martin explained how crucial it was to nail the swivel mechanism—which they have—should anyone take advantage of it. They wanted a screen that could serve you well while it’s standing (for, say, writing a long email via keyboard), but could transform itself into something you could share with your friends, way down low. How do we look at photos? How do we enjoy books? They aren’t held up to our noses, like a kindergarten teacher reading aloud to class—we put these things down on a table, or on our laps. So it had to swivel. But it also had to stand strong. The ideal mechanism would put up with vigorous touch input without collapsing onto itself, but would still slide downward without labor.

So they drew. And drew. And drew. And rendered. They toyed with stands that contained the computer’s components, stands with the lamp’s base, and stands that mimicked a scorpion. The result is a base that maintains both the solidity we expect from an all-in-one desktop, with the agility we expect from this mutant machine we’re just seeing for the first time. When crouched, it’s not a tablet, it’s not a desktop, and it’s not a laptop. We’re not sure how people are going to use it—probably not in the way that HP imagines, and certainly not in the way their current mediocre touch software allows. But HP’s willingness to create a whole new beast that contorts itself to be friends with our hands—that’s something we love to see. A computer’s design shouldn’t have anything to do with some new metallic finish—it should be devoted to making the best tool for people possible. The HP TouchSmart sure has its serious flaws but if the attention to software ever follows the attention to form we’ve seen here, it might just be sliding forward into computer history.

Android 2.4 coming in April in ViewSonic ViewPad 4

Android 2.4 reportedly coming in April, headed to ViewSonic ViewPad 4?

Last we heard at CES, Viewsonic’s ViewPad 4 handset was on track to launch with Android 2.2 in mid-June, but it now looks like there might be a pretty significant change of plans. Pocket-lint is reporting that it’s heard from a source at Viewsonic who says the ViewPad 4 is now set to launch in April… with Android 2.4. According to the source, however, that update will not be dubbed “Ice Cream” as some had suspected, but will instead simply still be called Gingerbread. So what does the update bring if not a name change? Compatibility with dual-core apps designed for Honeycomb, primarily, which Pocket-lint speculates is one of the main reasons we’ve yet to see many Android 2.3-based devices hit the market (Nexus S, aside).
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