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Native Apps “Versus” HTML5 (Part 2)

What are the pros and cons of using either environment for tablet and smartphone publishing? By John Parsons In Part 1, I explored some of the strengths and weaknesses of using native apps for content publishing. The browser approach has a different impact, but neither “side” is categorically better or worse for publishing professionals. The HTML5 Approach HTML5 is not all that mysterious. It’s simply the latest version of the markup language for rendering human-readable content on the Web. Managed by a working group of the W3C (www.w3.org), the not-yet-official standard will address a host of functional and aesthetic issues common to Web sites using HTML 4.01 and XHTML. For publishers, it represents an improvement in visual layout quality over ordinary HTML. Combined with CSS 3 (another pending Web standard), JavaScript, and Web fonts, HTML5 will provide greater typographic flexibility and control. Like previous versions, HTML5 is highly flexible and can re-flow at multiple screen sizes. It is also central to the “responsive design” trend on the Web, allowing content to be designed once, and then dynamically re-sized and even reformatted using CSS 3, to display well on any device. Unlike its predecessor, HTML5 includes native support for audio, video, and other elements previously supported by plugins like Flash. There are video file format issues still under discussion, but these will be ironed out as the standard evolves. A very important strength of HTML5 is its ability to handle constantly changing, need-to-know information. While this can potentially be done in an app—using a browser-like window or as a transparent overlay—a browser environment is often better suited for publishing live, constantly...

Native Apps “Versus” HTML5 (Part 1)

What are the pros and cons of using either environment for tablet and smartphone publishing? By John Parsons Many pixels have been spilled (including a few by this writer) over the strategic pros and cons of native apps and browser-based, HTML5 content for publishing. In fact, there is no “war”—no clear either/or distinction—between these two approaches. However, there are basic advantages and disadvantages to each, which content publishers should consider as they plan their long term mobile strategy. When Apple introduced the iPad, a mere 36 months ago, publishers scrambled to put something on these “new” portable devices. App content ranged from enhanced digital facsimiles to complex (and often very expensive) multimedia projects. Eventually, digital edition providers and developers began to offer tools for creating native content apps. Meanwhile, since tablets and smartphones already have built-in browsers, many began to consider publishing their content outside the native app environment, using the emerging HTML5 and CSS 3 standards to create an attractive, interactive publication. In theory, both approaches can be handled by a publisher’s internal staff: by the print design team in the case of apps or the Web design team in the case of HTML5. Not many have the resources to do both. Clearly, we need a new type of service provider—one that can offer both approaches, and does them equally well, at a reasonable price. Native Apps Skip ahead if you are familiar with tablet or smartphone apps, which are simply programs, like Word for Windows or MacOS. App developers use a Software Development Kit (SDK) and a programming language to create a user interface and various functions...