Why does Apple love HTML 5?

20 03 2011

There is an awful lot of talk and hype regarding HTML 5, with one of its main advocates being Steve Jobs and more importantly, Apple as a company…What so many don’t ask themselves is “why is Apple making a big push for something that essentially provides them no revenue”

 Apple often site HTML 5 as one of its reasons for not supporting Flash and Silverlight, stating they support the web free of plug-in technologies and want to ensure the web stays open source etc etc. Whenever I hear this it is so obvious that there is a different agenda, after all it makes no sense for Microsoft (with Silverlight) or Adobe (with Flash) to charge for these technologies, if they did, no one would use them and no websites would leverage them to deliver rich applications. What I continually find astonishing is the amount of so called journalists and bloggers that believe that Apple want a free, open web. Let’s remind ourselves, Apple exists to make money…

What’s in it for Apple?

Let’s ask ourselves, what’s in HTML 5 for Apple? I mean really in it for them? The answer is, Apps…

Now I may have lost you there, you probably thinking apps have nothing to do with HTML 5 as such, and you would be right. You see, HTML 5 is the future of the web for sure, and it will bring new life to the web with animiations, even video playback to an extent, (though we have this via Flash and Silverlight already, so nothing new to the web, just new to HTML). HTML 5 won’t make the web a “richer place”. You see, HTML 5 will still suffer the same limitations, namely running in a browser, the web architecture and the end user experience (not to mention cross browser compatibility issues, DDA compliance etc etc). This means websites wont be all singing and dancing apps, rather they will remain pretty much website experiences we have at the moment (well with a bit more “jazz” to them). You see, Apple is counting on the web going back to its roots more, and we are seeing this with many more websites looking cleaner, and simpler to meet certain compliancy issues and to make life easier for users (not to mention making life easier for developers when supporting all browsers across all platforms). What Apple doesn’t want is real rich applications to be delivered via HTML 5, well not the type that can compete with desktop based applications, or mobile apps.

Apple doesn’t want HTML 5 to be the wave of the future for application development because it can’t make money from that, rather it wants us all to have to “download” and use specific “apps” for platforms. Think the iPhone App store and you see what I am getting at.

Essentially one of the biggest reasons people opt for the iPhone is not because it’s the best looking phone, it has the so called best screen display (which it doesn’t) nor these days for its revolutionary touch screen and OS, no, it’s because of the App store, and the rich “internet” experiences these apps open the user up to.

Flash and Silverlight are technologies that can deliver “apps” via the internet and over the internet, cross platform, cross browser etc and all from the same code base. This is a real threat to Apple. After all, if I can write a great app using Silverlight and have it deployed with small mods to any form of device, then as a development company I have opened up my markets and saved money. This is a good thing. However, Apple now would have an app that, though rich and great on its platform, is just as good and readily available on other platforms. Which detracts from some of the appeal of its own product.

You see, Silverlght and Flash are real threats to Apples unique “app” store.

Here is an example of why Apps are the future and why Apple wants us all to love HTML 5.

How do you use Facebook on your mobile? Do you use a browser and the HTML version? Probably not because it’s too slow, clunky and the end user experience not that great. You use Facebook via your Facebook app for your mobile, which you downloaded from an App store (for apple, android or market place for windows). Apple take this further with the iPad, providing not just an app for your iPhone, but a slightly different app that works better on the iPad, the iPad being something that apparently is designed for web experiences on the go. Yet it still wants you to download apps, and, that is one of the reasons why Apple don’t want us to use Flash or Silverlight, because these technologies can deliver rich “apps” onto any platform potentially, not just specific to the iOS.

Today I watched an advert for sky news, and there was no mention of the sky news website, only that, for the very best experience, use the sky news iPad app…What does that tell you?

This confirms that Apple see Apps as a way of cornering the web market, especially when over 30% of web consumption was via mobile devices last year in the UK. The future of the web is reverting back to information based sites, with richer websites being delivered in HTML 5 yes, but real applications, and real rich intuitive experiences that work on multiple devices coming from dedicated apps.


Apple doesn’t want to supports Flash or Silverlight, if it did it means they have lost their app store edge. Imagine sky news delivering one solution for all platforms via Silverlight. The advert would have been “get the very best experience with our Sky News App, for iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Android and to your desktop”…Immediately, I don’t need to have an iPad to get the very best experience, rather I can choose which device, which OS, all of which detracts from Apple’s marketing and business plans in many may ways.

Apples tactics of using “content” to help us make the decision to purchase their hardware aren’t anything new. Look at how VHS beat off Beta-max? VHS was a lesser solution, but it had more content on it, and more to the point, content that was in high demand. Because of this, it meant users opted for the VHS platform as they then got the films they wanted, which meant Beta-max sales dropped until there was only one, VHS.

So while we all harp on about how great HTML 5 will be, we must remember that the big players (especially Apple) want it to succeed only to destroy Flash and Silverlight, which plays right back into their hands of delivering true rich experiences, only via their platform specific dedicated apps and app stores..And of course, we all do, so we will all be using apps to access the web…

I am a strong believer in the future of the web being Apps, as applications will always be able to potentially deliver far richer end user experiences. What I don’t want to see though is the need access the best experiences based on hardware and what is made available though an “App” store.  We should be able to access these apps directly from web pages, and opt for the mobile version, or the desktop version, or the slate version.

HTML 5 may be a way of lighting up HTML and making it richer, but it potentially could also be the way of forcing us all down the route of App stores and choosing hardware to best access web content. Now to me, that is not the point of HTML 5…



7 responses

22 03 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, great thinking in that post. It is true that Apple has a very control oriented mindset. But I don’t fully agree with your arguments. Let me point out that Flash is a crappy application development environment. Silverlight is a little bit better but not comparable to Objective-C in terms of quality. They are ok for ads and simple frontends, but not for all out application development.

When iTunes came out I did post that it would be great for software too. When the iOS AppStore came out I posted that it will be game changer. I said it would be great for Mac as well and that operating System developers should have picked up on installs and licensing a long time ago. We still have to use these stupid dongles to authorize products.

The big advantage of going through an APPSTORE IS CONTROL over the device! And that is not a bad thing. The Apple AppStore is really easy to use for the customer. No thinking about the install. There are also no viruses which there are already loads of for Android.

You forget another much more relevant point, which is the view of the developer! The main reason is however that developers are motivated to develop for iOS because they have absolute control over their market and there simply is NO MISUSE! Development and installation for Android is not for the meak and the technicalities can be daunting.

Yes, Apple gets a 30% share but through any other web shop or through a retailer you typically have to drop 50% in commission payments. Plus developers can make money through advertizing. Updates are a cinch. There are 350.000 apps on AppStore so I would say that customers have not been limited in their choice by Apple’s control mindset, but rather the opposite. It empowers the small developer who can suddenly compete with the monopolists. Apple is sharing their marketing channel with their development community. Neither IBM, nor Microsoft, nor Oracle or anyone else has been doing that.

So yes, I hear the cries for openness and standards. These really have been sofar a benefit for the large SW monopolists who use them as a marketing spiel. I have made my view on the limitation of most standards public often enough. But to be honest I prefer the control and stability of the iOS environment. Because it is better for my customers and that is better for me.

22 03 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

Hi Max,

Silverlight is a lot more than that. Essentially Silverlight is .NET WPF delivered via HTTP. Silverlight is for building applications, simple as that. Sure v1.0 may have been all about lighting up the web, but v4 is all about business applications and delivering rich desktop and mobile experiences. This really is the sort of technology we should be embracing (dev once, deliver anywhere).

I didnt forget the view of the developer. Ideally developers want to only dev something once, the problem with forcing them to develop on specific platforms (an Apple machine) and for iOS specifically is that the poor developer has to do a lot of work to then get the same app on Android, Blackberry and Win Phone 7. Its not right and it costs money. The same applies for desktop experiences to some extent (dev once and deploy on Linux, Mac and PC). This is why I like the Silverlight architecture, dev once deploy on anything (well that was origonally the idea). In addition the deployment and admin of silverlight apps is the simplest thing in the world.

I like app store concepts, dont get me wrong, but not to the detrement of the developer or consumer choice.

My point though, was not so much a dig at the app store but the way it is being used to force developers to choose what operating systems they want to dev for (which is not good for consumers). If the web is not so rich, us users and consumers want the best experiences, which I have no doubt lay ahead with apps. But why does iOS not support flash or silverlight? I dont mind having to use the Apple App Store to get those apps, the point is that Apple doesnt want those technologies because it means I can get excatly the same app on an Android device, or Windows device etc. which means I get the same experience. If I can do that on a device that is cheaper, then why do I pay so much to Apple for a device that delivers the same experience?

Apple want to force developers and ultimately consumers to make a choice to their OS and they are doing it by “dumbing” down the web by saying we shouldnt use Flash or Silverlight. If they succeed then we all will have to run apps on all devices, and Apple hope developers come to them because of the size of their App store now, the draw that has for consumers and the pretence that their OS is far better than anything out there.

Sure small developers can dev for the iPhone, but the same small developers are not seeing their apps available on all the other devices because they simply dont have the time or resources to keep deving and redeving the same app for different platforms. Apple rely on this fact.

Finally, I dont agree that iOS is the best option out there. Comparing brother in laws iPhone 4 to windows phone 7 I have to say the Microsoft device wins.

What I want to see is developers being able to truly develop apps once, and deploy on all sorts of platforms, Flash and Silverlight can facilitate this, and I dont mind these having to go through app stores. The problem is, allowing this doesnt allow Apple to differentiate itself based on Apps (which it does at the moment)…Thats the real issue, and thats why Apple loves HTML 5 and its lack of capbailities…

23 03 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, thanks. We all have our preferences. We develop for iOS, Android and Windows M7 and my choice is clearly iOS. Android is clever but messy as Open Source usually is and WM7 is limited and crappy, I am sorry to say. I feel the same way about Silverlight and the write once deliver anywhere doesn’t work well enough either if you try it on any other platform than Windows. It is better than Flash which is kind of its own mess due to its history and convoluted strategy of Adobe.

My own strategy is to create a platform for business apps that does not longer require continuous development und updates but uses the JIT deployment capability of the Papyrus Platform repository, plus provides the server/client/mobile peer-to-peer connectivity that will make this world a more dynamic one. I won’t get bogged down with bemoaning the available platforms and various strategies of the vendors but free business, their employees and customers from that yoke. That is where we need to go. Adobe, Microsoft, Apple and others such as Nokia have really strange strategies and we shouldn’t be limited by any of them.

Truly, the users don’t care how we do it and they have their choices of OS and we simply need to make it work for them so that apps are desirable, fast and productive. That’s where I am going and no Microsoft or Apple are going to hold me back …

23 03 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

My point of the post though was more aimed at consumers in general, more than business apps etc. Though what works well for consumers does tend to end up in business eventually.

Unfortunately with Apple refusing to support other technologies it makes it hard for the “ideal” that is Silverlight. Stating cross platform should be HTML 5 is the same as saying there will be no cross platform technologies, you just need to re-dev for each platform…Thats what apple wants, because it puts them ahead of the game since their App store holds the most apps which means more consumers will purchase apple products, which fuels more developers deving for Apple products primarily and forgetting others…

I dont think thats right…

25 03 2011

I’m afraid I’m with Max on this one, which won’t surprise you if you read my posts on the subject of Apple 🙂

The promise of write-once-run-anywhere is much better for back-end than front-end. And the “run anywhere” i want is “run somewhere else, where i don’t care” – which is effectively how these service-oriented apps tend to behave. You interface with dropbox and it puts a file somewhere. I don’t need to know that they wrote some linux-only solution, nor that they used php, nor that they used amazon’s s3, nor that they didn’t do any of those things. Doesn’t matter to me so long as they provide the service.

Meanwhile, there’s the user experience. One can write a fairly lowest-common-denominator experience – one that doesn’t take particular advantage of the differences of each platform, not necessarily one that “sucks” – or one can write apps that take specific advantage of each platform’s proprietary differentiation. I think for phones, clearly that’s the right answer so far. As a consumer, i just want the best possible experience on the device i own – i don’t care if it works on someone else’s device… and the interoperability issues are going to be on the back end – i can tell drop box to share a folder with my friend – i don’t have to worry what my friend’s platform is – if he can find one that runs dropbox he’s set, and if not, he can hit the browser interface.

My 2 cents.

25 03 2011
Andrew Smith @onedegree

So what you are both saying is then, that the concept of writting apps in HTML 5 is a load of rubbish and that apps should be bespoke to a platform? If thats the case, Im fine with this, but then Apple need to explain then why they wont support other technologies, even if you see them only as a way on enhancing the web?

My point of the article is that Apple claims to love open source, it claims the way of the future for consuming web apps is HTML 5, when really, this is all a load of **** because what they actually mean is, HTML 5 is ok for basic web stuff, but for a real experience purchase from our app store to access real experiences…And the reason they refuse to support Silverlight or Flash is nothing to do with experiences (because I can deliver just as good user experiences with Silverlight as any other technology), but because they dont want consumers to have choice on what device to run to access their content…

Answer me this, if the Apple app store had only 100 apps in it, would people really be purchasing the iPhone or iPad when an Android store had 100,000+ ? Nope…

25 03 2011
Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

Andrew, you are absolutely right. Application is king in IT. Windows became dominant because of Word and Excel when Mac didn’t have a great application landscape to compete. In enterprise system we need to pre-package content and process functionality into apps or drop-in processes as that’s what business wants. So yes, there it is. HTML5 will not deliver apps. It will deliever web experiences and that is not the same as you say yourself.

I am all for Open Source but to be honest the large majority customers – consumer and business – chide it. They want simple apps. They want them standalone and they only worry about multi-platform when they need to switch. Even large IT departments are the same. I have been unabe to make a big sell out of zero-effort portability. Application flexibility (and even more adaptability) are an even harder sell.

You are also right that Apple wants control over what an APP does and that’s why they don’t want Flash or Silverlight. But that control is good for the user who once again doesn’t care about the frustrations of us SW developers.

The consumer says: Just give me the APP I want. How you do that, I really don’t care. So Apple is right and the market has sofar justified their choices.

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