This post was originally published at Top 5 Reasons the Web Will Win on Mobile

imageIt should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed Sencha for any amount of time that we believe in the power and superiority of web technology. Prior to the explosion of the mainstream internet in the mid-90s, few would have predicted how enterprise application development would change with the growth of the web. However, for enterprise applications used on desktops and laptops, the results have now been in for some time. Spoiler alert: The web won. And it’s going to win on mobile too.

For enterprise applications used on desktops and laptops, the results have now been in for some time. Spoiler alert: The web won. And it’s going to win on mobile too.

By observing how our customers’ app strategies have evolved in recent years, we see the same dynamics that prevailed in the era of the desktop at work now in the mobile landscape. The waning predominance of native, platform-specific applications in a fragmented hardware and OS market is now giving way to web-based applications that work on any machine with a standard web runtime.

For enterprise software, only the rarest exception uses anything but web-based technology to deliver new applications on the desktop because of requirements around multi-platform support. Many organizations are realizing the web will meet their long-term needs on mobile devices too. Gartner predicts 90% of new enterprise applications in 2015 will be web-based or hybrid with web dependencies. There are several reasons for this:

  1. High quality WebViews are now available on most platforms – For the first several years of the mobile explosion, mobile OS vendors focused on enhancing their native development ecosystem to attract developers to their platforms. Consequently, the WebView – the web runtime on which mobile hybrid HTML5 apps rely – tended to be a few steps behind its native counterpart, resulting in poor performance and a degraded user experience. Advanced features like hardware accelerated rendering, WebGL support, and a high-performance JavaScript interpreter were either not available or not permissible because of vendor policies. For example, Apple kept WebGL support artificially disabled in the iOS WebView until iOS 8. Performance and feature-richness in the mobile web stack are now favorably comparable with their native equivalents.
  2. Broad platform support is only economically feasible using web tech – Developers are now frequently required to build applications that support desktops, tablets, and smartphones. Imagine having to implement the same application in multiple native languages, test across all the different combinations of device type, device vendor, and OS, and maintain multiple code bases over the life the app. This approach is wastefully expensive and scales poorly, especially for organizations that have large portfolios of applications.
  3. Web tech bridges the desktop-mobile divide – Many organizations already have a set of web applications built for use in a desktop browser. They are now being asked both to update those capabilities and make them available on mobile devices. By leveraging web technology, organizations can mobilize their applications faster, at lower cost, and with minimal redundancy in developer effort.
  4. Using web tech helps to simplify application management and security – Management and security across desktops and the various mobile platforms is as fragmented as the platforms themselves. Enterprise Mobility Management vendors have (mostly) mobile-oriented solutions that manage devices and native apps on these devices, but provide limited benefits on the desktop. This disparity shifts the burden of management and security on the desktop to developers, who are then forced to reinvent the wheel or install multiple point solutions to handle unaddressed issues. By building cross-platform applications using web technology, developers can benefit from using the same mechanisms to manage and secure applications, users, and data on all target devices.
  5. Device fragmentation is accelerating. The web helps developers keep up – Although smartphones and tablets are now commonplace in the enterprise, new computing platforms are emerging with increasing frequency. For example, automotive computers, smart TVs, media appliances, and wearables are now moving into the mainstream. It remains to be seen which of these will find usefulness in the enterprise. Regardless, it would be prohibitively expensive and inefficient for developers to rewrite or add a new native code base for each of these new categories. The only effective way to extend the longevity of existing applications and make them available on these new devices is to develop apps using web technology, and for device vendors to ship with a high-quality standard web runtime on their hardware platforms, which many of them are doing. These existing apps will either be able to run as-is or with relatively minor enhancements to account for the differences between platforms (e.g. screen-size, memory footprint, network connectivity profile, etc.)

The pace of technical innovation is truly breathtaking and increasingly complex for app developers to handle. Application management, security, and maintenance can become prohibitively expensive for organizations that do not select a suitable strategy. However, the web helped organizations address these issues back when the desktop was king. It will save the day again on mobile devices too.

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This post was originally published at Top 5 Reasons the Web Will Win on Mobile