Will HTML5 Kill Apple’s App Store?

June 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

6.13.11  Imagine if HTML5 killed the app store? The question is inspired by a simple example of the Financial Times deciding to use HTML5 to publish a mobile site instead of publishing an app through Apple. The publisher, which was recently discussed in Econsultancy, brings up a couple of key points. First, the Financial Times was able to create an experience that is relatively on par with what could be delivered through an app and secondly, the Financial Times is able to avoid the 30% cut that Apple takes. 

So, the question is not that odd ball then. As HTML5 matures, site owners will have more to think about as the decision for mobile site versus mobile app is made. In many cases, the decision for a mobile app is driven by the ability to have more complex functionality. This includes games, dashboards, and oddly functional tools like the iPhone flashlight.

In the long run…here is the skinny. If site publishers with simple to moderately complex features can offer visitors a good experience through mobile browsers then app stores may have some challenges. HTML5 will play a central role in this for sure. The  future irony will be if HTML5, which has been supported to a very high degree by Apple, will be a cause for decline in the types of apps that go through the store and ultimately, revenue for Apple itself.

To bring it back to the Financial Times, here is how they are now approaching the app store. They provide a simple message saying to switch over to a browser based app that also allows you to keep an icon on the iOS home screen (maintaining the feel of an app, but using a browser instead). As visitors and subscribers choose to do this, they will effectively cut Apple out of the revenue stream.

Message Displayed When to Switch Away from Apple App

One last point here, Joshua Benton, from the Niemen Foundation at Harvard, very eloquently talks abouts this. Offline businesses coming to the app store have to deal with their existing economic variables. If the app store does not support that business in profitable operations then they will seek other opportunities. This is clearly what the Financial Times has done.

The next question, what will Apple to to combat this and what impact will that have on the perception of publishers and the future of Apples’s store?


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