Web Apps

Amazon Greenlights HTML5 Web Apps

Amazon on Wednesday launched support for HTML5 Web apps in its Mobile App Distribution Program.

Developers can now submit URLs for their HTML5 apps to Amazon and leverage the company’s In-App Purchasing API for JavaScript.

Apps from Spil Games and IGN Video Game Reviews are among those already available in the Amazon Appstore.

“With this launch, Web developers do not need to learn native mobile app development to have their apps included in the Amazon Appstore,” Aaron Rubenson, the Appstore’s director, told TechNewsWorld. “They simply provide Amazon with an URL and metadata, and their website can be included as an app in the Appstore.”

Amazon “is working towards closing the gap between the capabilities of Web apps running on its platform and those of native apps,” remarked Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC. “The smaller the gap, the greater the adoption of the Web platform for mobile apps.”

Navigating the Mighty Amazon

Devs now just have to submit the URLs and metadata for their HTML5 Web apps to the Amazon Mobile App Distribution Portal and they will be distributed in nearly 200 countries to millions of customers who use Kindle Fire and Android devices.

All apps will be vetted to ensure compliance with Amazon’s guidelines before they are distributed, Rubenson said.

Some Technical Stuff

The Kindle Fire has a new, faster Web runtime based on the open source Chromium project that supports the latest HTML5 features, Amazon said. It’s GPU-accelerated.

This runtime supports standards-based extensions that let devs build an app once and deploy it across multiple platforms without the need for tweaking. It gives devs access to offline storage and location sensors, and it includes Web developer tools to enable on-device debugging on the Kindle Fire.

It also gives Web apps fluidity and speed approaching that of native apps, according to Amazon.

“The challenge for Web apps is that not all platforms support capabilities [for in-app purchasing] in their Web sub-platforms,” Hilwa told TechNewsWorld. “By snapping to the Chromium project, Amazon is essentially aligning with a semi-standardized set of extensions that are likely to percolate in time to most platforms.”

What About the WashPo Purchase?

Amazon’s announcement of support for HTML5, following Monday’s announcement that company founder Jeff Bezos was purchasing The Washington Post and allied publications in his individual capacity, might raise the question of whether there is a link between the two.

That might be justified, because content is king in the mobile device world, and all the major players are battling tooth and nail for that content. Being able to access content from newspapers will give Amazon considerable clout in the competition.

However, “there is no tie-in between the two,” Amazon’s Rubenson said.

Amazon’s announcement of HTML5 support “is unrelated to Jeff’s purchase,” IDC’s Hilwa said, “though I suspect the mobile team at The Washington Post may well be more motivated to support this new Kindle Web app initiative now.”

Did It for the Money

There will be 1.4 billion mobile devices with HTML5-compatible browsers by the end of the year, ABI Research has forecast. This represents an annual increase of 87 percent. However, most devs continue to work with native applications.

Amazon’s move might help change the situation.

“Our focus is on providing the ability for Web app developers to have another place to distribute and monetize their apps,” Amazon’s Rubenson said.

That could lead to more choice for consumers.

“One of the boons of the current version of HTML5,” Electronic Frontier Foundation International Outreach Coordinator Danny O’Brien told TechNewsWorld, “is that not only can Amazon pick up distributions for Android, but other distributors can use the same apps on other platforms, such as Mozilla’s Firefox marketplace on FirefoxOS, and the Web on iOS.”

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