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Oh, The Irony: Apple Pushed HTML5 and Now It Could Kill Apple's App Store

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By: Corey Tate
August 1, 2011
Bands have been told repeatedly that they need an iPad / iPhone app to help break their band ... but will this continue to be true? The new HTML5 technology means that you can create an app-like experience without going through Apple's App store.

We've all heard of the "Walled Garden" approach that Steve Jobs and Apple were taking with their iTunes and App Store approach ... everybody feared that this would lead to "the end of the browser" and a closed-loop system that only favored Apple and the App Store, a la the Apple ecosystem. Big publishers tripped over themselves to create iPad apps, calling it the savior of their future.

As it turns out, people are starting to do an end-run around the App Store approach because of a variety of reasons. iPhone apps and iPad apps are becoming secondary items to think about, leaving everyone to create a web experience that doesn't require Apple's App Store approval or take of the profits. I'm talking about creating the same type of experience through a web site. The mobile device apps can then be used to drive traffic back to your web site, the one thing you have absolute control over.

Apple's take of 30% on apps forced a number of publishers to rethink their strategy of creating a web experience for their users. Both Playboy and Financial Times skipped the App Store, creating app-like experiences with HTML5, AJAX and a basic rethinking of presentation and user experience. In the music world, we can look at the new Bjork web site and Arcade Fire's "The Wilderness Downtown" video as recent music examples. The result? The iPad app created a way to rethink the deep media experience, embedding videos and sound as well as other interactive features. An app isn't needed to present this way, only creative thinking.

Reuters columnist John Abell just talked about this, saying "Why are publishers already starting to re-think the future of media again? For one thing, there is that kickback to Apple —30% off the top — for selling through the iTunes store. Then there are those rules that seem to favor the functionality of Apple apps, like in-app purchasing. And, most ironically, there is the “Aha!” moment that the iPad itself has provided by highlighting what the optimized, mobile web can really be like."

Anybody who was building web stuff around the turn of the millennium can remember two distinct things that faced the same challenges that we're facing now -- web video and the whole browser wars thing. Video peeps back then grumbled about having create multiple versions of each video -- in QuickTime for the Mac people, Windows Media video for the PC people, and Real Video because it was another widely-used video player.

The browsers presented the same challenge: Netscape and Internet Explorer. In 2000, these were the main browsers being used. To complicate things more, each one worked differently on the Mac and the PC. This led web developers to create 4 versions of their web site to have ultimate control over the user experience: two versions for Internet Explorer (optimized for Mac and PC) and two versions for Netscape (also optimized for Mac and PC).

Huh?! It only takes a New York minute to realize that this is a hugely time consuming way to work. Things had to change, and they did. Eventually we came into better integration of standards, and as a result, web developers could create one version of their web site and have it work everywhere, all the time. Video was still split into multiple formats, but Flash came along and cruised through the 2000's as the de facto choice for web video.

Bringing it back to the modern-day story of the iPad app and it's limitations -- most of the developers are creating iPad apps because they have the coolness, but ironically there are more Android phones and tablet computers floating around. This makes no sense, plus we're facing this whole multiple versions of apps that I was talking about earlier. You have to create both Apple iOS and Android versions of an app, plus optimize the iOS for both iPhone and iPad experiences, sand then do the same for Android phones and Android tablet computers. So it makes sense that people want to escape the iPad app or iPhone app, as well as the Android app, and just create one version of an interactive experience that works everywhere ...

Fortunately, we don't need an app to do that. We can already do that in a browser with technologies like HTML5 and AJAX, to create a web site or web experience once and have it work everywhere. Every iPad, iPhone, Android phone and Android tablet come with a browser, leaving you with a choice that works everywhere, all the time.

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Tags: Apple, Digital Music News

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