Who’s going to win the format war – iOS (Apple iPad) or Android? “What format war?” you may ask. Come on, it’s obvious. Some are saying that the web is either dying (dramatic) or at the least being impacted by the modern fashion of Apps, and these run on iOS or Android (mostly). Actually, by sales Apple is winning hands-down.
This IS a format war, because developers need to support one or other platform – or both – and users need to choose the platform that has the content they need, and there is some sense in it when databases contents are queried and displayed in Apps rather than on web pages.
Apple has the early advantage, and the cool factor. But it’s the most expensive and the most hassle to develop for, as Apps can only be sold through Apple. Android is a free-for-all. Apps can be sold through Google, or anyone else making them available for download in the future. It’s an open standard. The security implications of this are profoundly worrying, but this is another story.
So, running iOS is expensive, Android is insecure and neither are very compatible. That’s before you consider Blackberry and any requirement to run an App on your Windows or Linux PC.
But, I don’t think this is a conventional format war. It’s mostly software based, and open standards software might just win out here (and I don’t mean Android). People like paying for and downloading Apps. Web browsers can (technically) support Apps, using Java and the upcoming HTML5 in particular. Why target a specific operating environment when you can target a standard web browser and run on anything?
As an aside, HTML5 is sometimes hailed as something new and different when in fact it’s just evolution and tidying up. The fact is that HTML is cross-platform and will deliver the same functionallity as Apps. HTML5 simply standardises and simplifies things, making cross-platform more open-standard, so every browser will be able to view page content without proprietary plug-ins, including better support for mobile devices which lost out in the late 1990’s onwards when graphic designers decided HTML was a WYSIWYG language.
Some modern-day pundits will proclaim that data will be accessed more through Apps in the future, and the web has had its decade. Apparently a third of the UK is now using smart-phones. Whether this statistic is correct or not, they’re certainly popular and I’ll concede that Apps are here to stay. But in my vision of the future they won’t be running on iOS, Android or Blackberry – they’ll be written using HTML5 and run on anything. It’s platform independence that launched HTML and the web twenty years ago, and it’s what will see off the competition for the next twenty years.