26 Sept 2012

HTML5 vs Native: Fast food vs Fine dining?

We're very grateful to our event sponsor, Keynote DeviceAnywhere our panellists and our superb chair, Ewan MacLeod, @ew4n of Mobile Industry Review, who who set the tone for a highly entertaining and informative debate.

Check out the Web and Native solutions from Keynote DeviceAnywhere linked below.

Thanks to Jake Cassels, @jakecassels, for writing this great account of the HTML5 vs Native debate, held on 24th September 2012 and our panellists:

Sam Arora, Keynote Systems (DeviceAnywhere Platform) @devanywhere
Andrew Betts, Director, FT Labs, @triblondon
Jose Valles, Head, BlueVia, @josevalles49
Nick Barnett, CEO, Mippin, @docnickb
Chris Book, CEO, Bardowl, @bookmeister
Alex Caccia, President, Marmalade @marmaladeapps

It’s been more than a year since HTML5 reigned victorious over Native apps at the Mobile Monday debate.  In fact, as Jo Rabin, director, Mobile Monday London, confessed, the topic has been revisited on an annual basis for the last five years.

However, in the fifteen months since the last debate, HTML5 has been scrutinised publicly like no other year before (will anyone mention the F word?). Against this turbulent backdrop, I was keen to deduce from the debate not whether attitudes had changed, but to what extent and why.

Jo Rabin’s motion for the debate placed any advocate of HTML5 firmly on the back foot. Rabin’s preferred metaphor made it sound greasy and cheap:    

“This house believes that HTML5, far from being part of Gordon Ramsay’s larder is more likely to be used by Stavros at the corner chippie. Fine if you want chips. Do you aspire to be Gordon or are you content to be Stavros?”

Is hardware now making it harder for HTML5?

Andrew Betts, Director, FT Labs, which publishes the Financial Times HTML5 app, fired out his most powerful arguments for HTML5 up front. These remain unchanged one year on: He maintains that HTML5 truly is the only cross platform solution.  It uses a single codebase.  It provides a much wider reach allowing greater monetisation.

Betts found support from a surprising place: “The web is always going to win” was the cry from Nick Barrett, CEO, Mippin and firm native supporter.  However, Barrett went on to argue that right now with no guaranteed network, closed access to device APIs and cache means that on mobile it’s still not ready.

Alex Caccia, President, Marmalade went further, contending that whilst HTML5 is great on a surface level, the challenge lies in the hardware market.  Because the market is changing faster than ever before, developers bump up against a browser problem, which can’t be solved by logic or reason.  Developers need to get ‘close to the metal’ going native to keep up with this rapid change in firmware.

It’s not only a technology decision

Nick Barrett pulled the debate away from the technology, proposing that developers need to think about their product’s business model and distribution plan before deciding on the technology.   He used the FT’s decision to opt for HTML5 to support his point.  The FT’s well-defined user group and 130 year brand heritage has meant it does not have to rely on an app store for discoverability.  Besides, didn’t the FT simply want to avoid sharing any revenues with Apple?

Andrew Betts, conceded that FT did want to retain the 30% and ongoing 39% subscription revenue that Apple would take.  However, as an additional benefit, the FT now also owns the relationship with its customers.  Native, Betts argued, creates boundaries between the developer and its customers.

But does the FT ask too much from its customers?  Debate moderator, Ewan MacLoed thinks so.  It’s only because it’s the FT that he’s prepared to increase the size of his local cache, following the onerous prompts to achieve it but suspects there are very few instances when he would be happy to do this for other products.

Betts turns MacLeod’s point on its head, contending that HTML5 actually allows users a ‘granular level of permissions’ providing a variety of experiences everything from a straightforward website to a fully integrated application – a far greater experience than being asked to download a separate app from a webpage.  His final point is applauded.  HTML5 is fighting back.

The app store: A mixed blessing

The clearest indicator as to how attitudes have changed in the last fifteen months can be found in the discussions about app store.  In 2011, discoverability was an important consideration when developing natively.  However, with more than 700k iOS apps available, discoverability is now a huge problem whichever route is taken.

One audience member felt that the growing power of app stores has led to developers losing control.  Working with HTML5 provides much needed competition an may prevent developers from becoming hostages of the app store.

In the most heated exchange of the debate, the native champions on the panel likened the app store model to a curated department store retail experience like John Lewis or Debenhams. For many in the room, this is counter to everything that is good about the web.  There should be no boundaries, rules and constraints.

Banking and security

Why are there so few HTML5 banking apps? Banking apps have limited content management requirements and native proponents argue that native offers a greater level of security.  Plus the notifications and personalisation is also a strong benefit of native.

Jose Valles, Head of Blue Via, doesn’t understand why there are so few banking apps either.  He argues that there are the same security issues with desktop online banking as with the use of HTML5.

What about fragmentation? 

Does HTML5 solve the problem of needing to develop for a fragmented landscape of browsers and devices?  No, argues Alex Caccia and Chris Book.  It is a myth that you can develop in HTML5 once.  Developers still need to rework for iPhone, iPad and other devices.

“Because you’re not that good at developing HTML5” retorted Andrew Betts.  “What about Facebook?” The question we’ve all been waiting for from the native champions.  Betts argues that Facebook wasted two years on HTML5 because they “didn’t do it well”.

But how does that answer the question about providing for completely different UIs?  Nick Barrett illustrates his point by suggesting that developers might as well develop natively to achieve the UI expectations for devices like Windows phone.  Surely a single HTML5 app would stick out?

The FT has developed a brand UI as opposed to a platform UI to counter this, Betts reveals.  That means what is designed is not specific to Metro or iOS and is what readers expect from the FT having read the paper for years.

Different modes of use

Betts believes HTML5 allows a far broader and ambitious scope in modes of use and is not as constrained as native is. Using this single web technology with a single code base Betts is convinced HTML5 can adapt well to different modes of use. “With HTML5 we can talk about TV, kiosks and billboards” he claims going on to mention a hack day that allowed developers to use Kinect gestural technology to control the FT.

Caccia rushes to defend native apps suggesting they can also be used on different devices but with a much greater control on what the app looks like.  In fact, Caccia uses gaming as an example where native offers a far better experience than HMTL5. The HTML5 promise is only delivered for a narrow band of applications.

An audience member goes further asking whether HTML5 has actually destroyed usability?  The panel are delighted with the opportunity to discuss maps to demonstrate both sides of the argument.  Google Maps mobile web service is used an example of being inferior to a native app, but it’s not long before everyone’s laughing at failings of Apple maps in iOS6.

A happy hybrid?

“Surely this argument isn’t simply two-sided?” asked one audience member.  In a moment of conciliation the panel agreed that there is a place for ‘wrappers’ such as PhoneGap for iOS and Android or Webworks for BlackBerry. Although, there was a feeling amongst both the panel and the audience that these did offer inconsistency of experience.

The result

“There is never a better time to make your website mobile” came one final call from the audience, explaining that Safari in iOS6 now offers a debugging suite.  But it was not enough to convince this evening’s delegation that HTML5 would win the day.   In a convincing result, native gained at least three quarters of the vote, much to the disappointment of Director, Jo Rabin.

It was clear that underlying this, there still remains a strong desire for the mobile web to work, but in the medium term neither the panel nor the audience could see this materialising. Fine dining was favoured over fast food. I still think that everyone would have been delighted with a big bag of steaming hot chips with plenty of salt and vinegar.  If only Crossrail hadn’t meant the demolition of Dionysius’ Fish Bar just opposite our venue.

Rabin urged delegates to turn this around and help make the mobile web better by joining the Core Mobile Web Platform Community Group at http://coremob.org

You can see other coverage of the event here

And here is a word from our fab event sponsor:  Test your app today on Keynotes’ DeviceAnywhere mobile testing platform for FREE! Get 3 free hours of on over 1000 devices around the world including the UK and the US on all of the major OS’. Also, if you wanted to find out more about our ‘write-once, run anywhere’ HTML5-based automated scripting technology, click here or register for our next webinar covering all of our enterprise testing products for testing and monitoring.

16 Sept 2012

Mobile Miscellany - 14 September 2012

It seems like just a moment since we ran our Mobile Apps Marketing Event on the 3rd Sept, with our lovely annual sponsors Samsung. Well, actually, that was just 10 days ago, and here we are, with just 10 days to our next event. We don't usually do two events in 3 weeks, and now I remember why! Lots of you said you liked it, thanks! If you missed it check out the blog post from @missfog at http://www.mobilemonday.org.uk/2012/09/event-round-up-3rd-september-mobile.html.

So, on with the news. Firstly, what's up at Mobile Monday London; next, some competitions you still have the chance to enter and then to conclude, a selection of top events where we have discounts for you!

Monday 24th Sept - Annual HTML5 vs Native Debate

I was going to say that I'm sorry to say ... but equally I am thrilled, I suppose ... that this event sold out in the first morning of registration being open. Really sorry if you did not make it, please, please put your name on the wait list and we'll see what we can do. Really delighted, of course that this event has attracted so much interest. Supported by the wonderful people at Keynote, our moderator (if that is the right word for someone so immoderate) for the evening is the irrepressible Ewan MacLeod of Mobile Industry Review. Details of the event and wait list here: http://momolondon-2012-09-24.eventbrite.co.uk/

Like British Airways we over book and occasionally we have to bump people who have tickets. That's pretty much where that analogy ends, I'm afraid - we don't take you to exotic places and we don't offer you upgrades and we don't have a frequent flier programme - though come to think of it, would you like one?

Anyway, the point is to guarantee you get a seat at the event please arrive early. Doors open at 6.00 pm for a 6.30 pm start.

The event forms part of Social Media Week, London, check out some of the other events here http://socialmediaweek.org/london/.

The Mobile Academy - Making It In Mobile - Starts Tuesday 18th Sept - Last chance to Register!

I've mentioned this before and I'll mention it again. The leading mobilists from the London scene are teaching this course, which starts next Tuesday 18th September. We're very nearly full, however there are a couple of spaces still for this amazing 10 week evening course, hosted by Mobile Monday London and University College London. Amazing value at £300 plus booking fee. Snap up the last few spaces immediately! http://themobileacademy.org.uk/

Win a Place on the UK's Stand at Mobile World Congress 2013

You could win a place on the UK's stand at Barcelona next year. But only if you enter the competition! Once again (is it really 5 years running?) we're delighted to be working with ICTKTN and UKTI to promote this competition and to host the final. The prize is for a small number of lucky companies to get free places on the UK stand at Mobile World Congress. Past winners from the MoMoLo community have spoken about how much this has helped their business. No surprise there I guess (as if you needed encouragement to try for something that gives you free stand space, some free passes and training on how to make the most of the opportunity).

How to enter the competition? Full details of what you win and how to enter here: http://www.mobilemonday.org.uk/p/win-place-at-mobile-world-congress_12.html -  Don't delay! You have until 5pm on Weds 3rd October to enter.

We will be holding the Live Final of the MWC 2013 competition on Monday 29th October. The shortlist of selected entrants give a three minute pitch and are the quizzed by the judging panel. More on how to register to attend the event in a couple of weeks.

Competitions Still Open:

Samsung Smart App Challenge closes 30 Sept

We've mentioned before that you have till 30th Sept to enter the Smart App Challenge 2012 run by  our lovely annual sponsors Samsung. It has 80 prizes in a prize pot of over $4M ... it has already started, and closes on 30th Sept - so check it out at http://www.smartappchallenge.com/eng/main.do

Vodafone Smart Accessibility Awards closes 15th October

A reminder to make sure you enter the Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards 2012. Make sure to check out the 4 awards which share a prize pot of EUR 200,000. Entry is now open and closes on the 15th October. Information about the categories and entry criteria can be found at http://developer.vodafone.com/smartaccess2012/home/

Some Great Events:

Mobile Marketing Live 1 & 2 October

As I mentioned before the lovely people at Mobile Marketing gave away two stands to MoMoLo competition winners (congrats PixelPin and Scramboo) make sure to check out this event at http://www.mobilemarketingmagazine.com/live/ and use code MOMO25 for a 25% discount on your ticket or BOGOF (sic) to get 2 for 1.

Droidcon 2012 25 & 26 October

Yes, it's nearly time for the incomparable Droidcon. Fabulous event last year, thoroughly recommended. Even for iOS fans, get to see what you're missing ;-) Claim your MoMoLo 30% discount by quoting MOMOLO-DROIDCON at http://uk.droidcon.com/.

Guardian Mobile Business Summit 2012 19 November

To describe The Guardian Mobile Business Summit as one of the top events of the mobile calendar would be to miss the point. So I won't. Oh, wait! Yes, it really is - you don't need me to tell you that. We're delighted to be working with The Guardian this year, the draft agenda is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media-network/2012/sep/03/mobile-summit and you can claim your 20% discount at http://mobile-business-summit.eventbrite.com/ using code MBSMOMO.

What they say:

The Guardian Mobile Business Summit attracts executives from around the world to define the opportunities and hurdles that face the burgeoning mobile media sector. The summit agenda, curated by the Guardian, offers an unparalleled level of seniority and diversity in the field of mobile technology to bring you close to the executives and organisations that are defining the future of mobile media, giving you good reasons to go home and change your business.

iPhone 5 Launch Event

And to conclude with a topical spot ... yup, the iPhone 5 launched. Seems to be exactly what everyone expected including minus NFC, once again. Come to think of it, that's not news, is it? Sorry.

Looking forward to a lively debate on the 24th and hope to catch you there!

13 Sept 2012

Event Round Up - 3rd September Mobile Apps Marketing

Once again, many thanks to our annual sponsor, Samsung for their support in everything, and in particular this event.

Our special investigator, Valentina Ciolino, also known as @missfog has some questions as to your whereabouts last Monday week:

Where were you ten days ago between six-thirty and nine-thirty in the evening? If your answer isn’t “Centre Point”, then probably you are missing some of the tips and tricks on mobile apps marketing that our five panellists shared with the audience at the 76th Mobile Monday London. But fear you not! Here’s a summary of the discussion.

Introductions and preamble or “the need for quality”

As Tim Green, moderator of the panel, better known as Executive Editor of  Mobile Entertainment Magazine put it, for journalists - even for those interested in mobile apps - a new app is not a news story.

[In what must have been a bit of a shocking announcement, to some of the audience, at least, Tim also noted that he's moving on from that position, and we all wish him well in his new endeavours! ed.]

There are a half million apps on the Apple App Store and around the same on Google Play, Richard Firminger Flurry’s MD noted, and yours is just one more. In order to stand out, your apps need to do something very well, have quality design, user-friendly interface, a smooth user experience and a great icon. Or, as Keith O’Brien, Head of Content at Samsung said: be "...unique, be interesting..."  Your core value must be clear and clearly conveyed to your audience suggested  Mindshare’s Head of Social, Paul Armstrong, even if it’s a simple and common one.  But it’s better if you can offer unique features that can get traction with the press and the customers, added Oded Ran, Touchnote, giving the example of the handwriting capabilities with their app for Samsung Galaxy Note.

But first of all, there’s nothing better than a quality application to get sincere positive reviews and high ratings - things that fuel media attention and get you additional downloads.
(Left to right) Tim Green, Paul Armstrong, Keith O'Brien, Oded  Ran & Richard Firminger

Start with the right foot or “pre-launch tips”

So you have a break-through idea for a quality app? Sweet! Before you even think of starting the production, there are questions you need to answer and issues to address:

  1. What would be your ideal client, and how many of them are there? Get data about your users, and study your competitors.
  2. What’s the best business model for your clients and can you apply it to your product? Would they pay to get the product immediately, or would they want to try it first? Is it better to release it for free with in-app purchases or with ads?
  3. Did you think properly about your product name - is it understandable enough? Is it an obvious description of your app? Think about famous apps, you’ll find some crystal clear names such as "Draw Something". You want something as simple as that, but …Have you searched for the keywords online to see if they’re available?

If you are happy with your plans and your strategy, you finally can start coding, and while you’re at it, here’s some more things to consider:

  1. Are you implementing social sharing? Oded suggested that you’d better be obsessed with the process to get each of your users to share the app with more than one friend. You need a virality mechanism built in your product, you need to make it pleasant for your users to send content from within the app.
  2. Have you tested enough? QA is essential. Bad reviews due to bugs you could have fixed before the launch won’t be easily forgiven.
  3. Don’t undervalue analytics! It will very important for you to understand the behaviour of your actual users, to see what you need to change, what is working and what you can do to improve their experience. Oded told us that they track everything on Touchnote: ranking, customer acquisition and ads costs and effects, revenues and so on.
  4. Your presentation on the app store is crucial. Are your images good enough? Do you have a video? People do not want to read, stressed Keith, so don’t rely on them scrolling down your app store description to find out what your product is about, show it visually.

Free Apps Marketing or “You Really, Really Need a Launch Budget, Really”

Too often developers spend all their money on what they love: development. However, when it comes to launching a product in a crowded market, a small budget can make the difference. Even if you only have few £s to spend, try to make the most of them and it will be better than not doing anything.

If you have already spent all your coins on production, though, you can still invest something else: your time. In fact, if you have time, you can still do some basic promotion for your apps by yourself. You can use social networks. You can find the addresses of a number of apps reviewers online. You can produce an in-house promotional video. You can find fellow developers to cross-promote your apps. You can find sponsors. You can find clients, if you have enough patience to search. There even is one free promotion service, called appromoter, that can help your app being noticed by journalists, suggested Tim.

About the Best Advertising Model or “There isn’t One Answer”

So what’s the best strategy to launch and market your app? You shall find the answer yourself: try a few ones and see what happens.

You may need to bet your money on ads that rely on recommendation engines or segmentation, as Richard suggested, or spend it to find a small group of your ideal clients, which is what Paul recommended. You may not need huge numbers to start with, you may as well contact ten willing-to-spend customers at a time instead of showing a banner to millions of not interested gamers, but do you know what’s which ones are the most expensive?

Ads may work for some apps categories, especially games and social apps in travel, dating, music, e-commerce … for all those sectors where you need a large customer base. Or incentivized downloads may not be what you need, after all.

The Halo Effect (which brings the masses to download apps on the top lists just because they are there) is too weak for some categories, Oded pointed out, so in the end you may not need to be in the top 5 apps to make a profit. If you have your analytic mechanism in place, it won’t be difficult to find out the best solution for you.

You’re not an Expert in Everything or “Get Professional Help”

While the panel agreed about the risks of spending big money on random advertising and getting back few downloads, or useless downloads (i.e. by people who won’t spend money within your freemium app), there was consensus about the value of paying people who know their job to help you. You may be a professional, but you can’t know everything.

Other people can help you with localisation, QA (if you submit your app to Samsung, they have a free QA and testing service across all their devices), PR, marketing, ads, social (Mindshare itself is one of the experts), analytics and so on. Some advertising networks works for some apps and others don’t…an expert can tell you what the best option is for you.

Use the free tools you have to find some professionals online, search for companies specialized in what you need, and always chat with your peers and ask them for advice ...... Mobile Monday London is perfect for that!

Thanks again to our Sponsor, Chair, Panellists and all of you for making it such an interesting (and full) session.

11 Sept 2012

HTML5 vs Native - 24 September

On Monday 24th September, we see the return of this evergreen topic in our extremely popular annual discussion of HTML5 vs Native kindly supported by the folks over at Keynote DeviceAnywhere. We keep returning to this discussion because to live in mobile is to live in the fast lane! So it’s good to keep up with thinking and the trends that seem to keep changing the picture on an ongoing basis.

At our sell out event, last year, we debated the motion:

“This house believes that apps are the new ringtones and therefore have a limited shelf-life for long-term commercial gain”

and in a highly energetic and amusing debate, you, the community, decided in favour of the motion.

Native Apps are dead, long live Web Apps!

Back then HTML5 was the new kid on the block, offering the promise of “write once run anywhere” and many of us enthusiastically espoused the dawning of a new era. A year and a bit later, how do we all feel about this?

Probably most of us still believe that in some time frame for some classes of application HTML5 offers the prospect and indeed does already provide a good answer to some clearly scoped and limited application use cases.

But in the light of over a year’s experience, some are saying that it’s not yet lived up to its promise and that although like the proverbial Chinese meal they felt full at the time, their hunger hasn’t been satisfied in the medium term and are sceptical about the long term. Perhaps, like other famous cross-device solutions both its promise and its readiness for market were over-stated. Insufficient specification, incomplete feature readiness, inconsistent order of implementation makes this an engineering bouillabaisse and does not provide the sort of commercial respite we were looking for.

So, reality has crept in, today HTML5 does not provide the ingredients for the kind of Michelin dining experience that is often needed. Instead, if you want a TV dinner, then it provides a Pot Noodles experience for consumption on the couch.

So this year, our motion is:

“This house believes that HTML5, far from being part of Gordon Ramsay’s larder is more likely to be used by Stavros at the corner chippie. Fine if you want chips. Do you aspire to be Gordon or are you content to be Stavros?”

Chaired by the quirky, opinionated and even irascible Ewan MacLeod of Mobile Industry Review, and joined by two teams of leading debaters including Andrew Betts (Director, FT Labs), Sam Arora (Business Development Manager, Keynote Systems - DeviceAnywhere Platform), Jose Valles (Head of BlueVia), Nick Barnett (CEO, Mippin), Alex Caccia (CEO, Marmalade) and Chris Book (CEO, Bardowl). We are looking forward to another lively, and possibly even riotous debate!

6.00 Arrival
6.30 Introduction
6.45 Debate
8.00 Networking
9.30 Close

As usual attendance is free, but registration is required and is now open on EventBrite.

The CBI Conference Centre at Centre Point, the very tall building immediately above Tottenham Court Road tube station, on the Central and Northern Lines. Please use the entrance at street level under the bridge formed by the building itself.

Thanks to our sponsors, Keynote DeviceAnywhere, for supporting the event.

Social Media Week
Our event is part of Social Media Week London which is returning to London from 24th – 28th September 2012!