back to article Microsoft+HTML: The antidote to iOS and Android

For a comparatively brief period of time, hardware companies like Nokia and telco operators like AT&T ruled the mobile roost. But as they're now learning – and not doubt stewing over – software is increasingly king in mobile, just like it is on the desktop. The winning strategy in this software-centric world is one that puts …


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  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    There is more to this than just numbers

    I'm referring to Quality.

    Some of the Android apps I've installed are so flaky that as a Software Dev I'd be ashamed to release things with so many bugs.

    If you contrast that to the app I used on my old iPhone, frankly there is no competition. the iPhone wins hands down.

    It appear that the Android App devs have been afflicted by the Microsoft/FOSS Disease (and I'm speaking as a FOSS dev in my spare time) that they don't understand the meaning of 'Getting to Done'. i.e. making the app complete and work properly before releasing 'stuff' before it is ready and letting the users find the bugs.

    MS has been doing this for years. It is a habit that many OpenSource projects have adopted as well. I applaud the efforts of the LibreOffice Community to clean up and fix the bugs in the codebase they inherited.

    I wish more projects would adopt a 'This release is going to be a bugfix only'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hardware issues.

      iPhone devs have a single device with known hardware specs to develop for. If it fails on the latest iPhone it is a total fail and won't be released...

      Android devs have hundreds of devices to cater for, and they will only have a handful of test phones, so while it may work on an HTC desire and a samsung galaxy S it may not on a sony xperia.

      Because of the many different hardware configurations possible (and manufactures skimping on specs) it is not always possible for a developer to make their Android app work first time on every phone, and that's before you get onto the fact that Android can be customised to a level that the iPhone can only dream of...which causes software issues of its own.

      1. Giles Jones Gold badge

        Software not hardware.

        It's nothing to do with the hardware, it is the software to blame. The hardware does not cause application bugs in most cases, it is badly written driver code or other issues in the software that supports the hardware.

        I had enough of this in Windows Mobile to ever want to go back to it. Games would crash the phone and you soon came to realise why there was a reset button on every Windows Mobile touch screen phone.

    2. DrXym

      Well you know what you do

      Downrank the app which you think is poor. Good apps rise to the top. Bad apps sink to the bottom.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Funny, I've had plenty of apps bomb to desktop in the middle of what it's doing or during start up. Still many more that lag the whole system out.

      On my old iphone 3G.

      The lagging is often a hardware issue (ie, the app is pushing the limits of what the phone could do) but the bombing out? Could be due to how long I kept it away from v4, tho I've still had plenty of apps bomb post update.

      So my only thought is that both sides have shitty devs writing for them, can we cut out the fanboy crap please?

      BTW, so far I've only had a single app on my new galaxy s2 bomb out - that was a news app for the guardian/FT/Indie/Telegraph. But I'm expecting more the longer I use the phone, since it will happen regardless of platform.

    4. N13L5

      its new, its the wild west.... what did u expect?

      Freedom has its costs, and it takes intelligence to use it / keep it

      I'd rather have to sift through 10 apps that don't work right, to find the one I like, than have Steve Jobs sift through them for me and choose what he likes.

      Of course you end up with 13 year old devs who read a programming book and they may not even be lazy, they're just lacking some basics in CS... I'm happy to check out their stuff, and if it fouls up, it sure is easy enough to get it off your phone.

      This is one great thing in Android... installing and uninstalling apps is a no-brainer, takes 5 seconds round trip...

      And so far, in every area of software, I've found more than one really solid program.

      So yeah, you can have my iPhone, its going up on ebay...

  2. DrXym

    HTML5 doesn't exist

    HTML5 is a loose collection of recommendations which don't exist firmly as a standard and when they exist at all often lack features that other alleged "HTML5 compliant" browsers implement.

    It'll be a few years yet before the term means something that developers can actually develop against and reasonably expect Random Browser to support without issues.

    As for Microsoft, anyone thinking they're going to come in with some standards compliant way of implementing apps is smoking something. More likely it will be standards *based*, i.e. they take some standard, put in a bunch of proprietary hooks, tags and other nonstandard features that will subvert the standard. Nothing wrong with that per se except the misleading manner they'll promote it claiming it's HTML5 or similar. So regard it for what it is, just another way of writing apps with little expectation that it's going to produce portable code.

    1. Bilgepipe

      Yes there is...

      >>> Nothing wrong with that per se...

      There really is. Microsoft's "enhancing" of standards over the years has held things back in the industry a long time - we're still suffering the deplorable IE6, for example. It's unforgivable, and goes against what a "standard" is for. Either implement a standard or don't, but don't "enhance" it for your own ends.

      1. DrXym

        No there isn't

        Windows 8 and Windows Phone are going to need to do things via HTML when running locally that some random website shouldn't be able to do. Store data, launch apps, check battery strength, sign files, encryption, packaging etc. Just like Firefox "extends" JS, CSS, HTML with a bunch of helpers and escalated privileges for dealing with XUL.

        My problem is not with them doing this but the liklihood that they'll trumpet it as being HTML5, that their OS is the only standards compliant system when it isn't. It'll be HTML + extensions which may as well be proprietary. It'll probably bear as much relationship to HTML5 as Gadgets do right now which is to say superficial.

  3. Peter Murphy

    "35 per cent of Java developers planning to dump these platforms" doesn't sound right.

    Shouldn't that be "35 per cent of Java _ME_ developers"? That's what it says in the original PDF. Java is also used for Android - a completely different platform written in the same language that is going gangbusters at the moment.

    1. DrXym

      Java is even being used for HTML development

      GWT is a very popular way to develop web applications. Devs write in Java, a compiler spits out the equivalent Javascript and HTML. It's actually a very powerful system and shields devs from the kind of crap an AJAX library would make them deal with.

      I suppose MS could contemplate something similar, built around .NET of course. Design in XAML, write in .NET, out pops HTML and CSS. Issues would be around the same areas that affect GWT, multithreading, storage and so on.

    2. N13L5

      yeah, i was thinking that too

      its like hey, Java isn't a platform, its a freaking programming language...

      Java ME on the other hand, I don't think anybody will 'dump' that while there's still a fairly large chunk of 'dumb phones' being sold.

      But you know how these kinds of articles get written, someone comes up with a theory and then goes looking around for supporting data.

      Then u stir and cook it for a few hours, and voila: a new opinion piece that looks like invincible fact as much as it can...

      Haha, just kidding, I think the author does have a point with some of his statements ;-)

  4. ratfox

    Microsoft can be a winner...

    If they think fast and act quickly. In other words: forget it. The last time MS displayed this kind of ability was when it created IE double quick and put it on Win95; which for the better or worse gave them a leading position on the browser market for almost a decade.

    Is there ANYBODY who can tell me what the windows user icon represents??

    1. Daniel 1

      But they didn't

      They licensed Mosaic from Spyglass.

      Its an old saw (but it may be true) that one of the key reasons IE was originally bundled for free, was that it avoided having to pay a revenues-royalty back to Spyglass, which was part of the original deal. Certainly, Spyglass got an 8 million dollar payoff, after demanding contractual audit, when they realised they weren't going to get as much money from the deal as they had hoped.

  5. Maliciously Crafted Packet


    so developers don't mind being destitute for all the hard work they put into coding apps. So long as they target the platform with the most handsets the poverty is fine.

    Fascinating, one learns something new everyday.

    1. icanonlyimagine
      Thumb Up


      ...somebody it seems hasn't learned the lesson or maybe they're just bitter.

      +1 by the way.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HTML 5 opportunity

    A good HTML 5 toolset will certainly help MS sell more dev. tools, and help developers make cross-platform web apps - which will be eagerly taken up by the iOs and Android user base. Unless of course, the HTML 5 apps are 'extended' and only work on WinPhone 7, in which case they won't gain much traction

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't think so

    "Javascript rules app development". No, cross platform portability rules app development. Whoever nails that (e.g. Unity or ShiVa for 3D, PhoneGap, Titanium, Rhodes for the rest) will determine the scripting language adopted by the majority.

  8. Ru

    Javascript rules, sure.

    I hear C++ is pretty gosh darn popular too. But you know what? I'd rather use Java or C# for most application development than either of them.

    Silverlight is basically doomed because MS' strategies increasingly resemble the actions of headless chickens. They had a nice language, some reasonable libraries, a nice set of dev tools and an adequate front end. If they'd managed to push it as a single, unified plaform for desktop, web and mobile they might have gotten somewhere instead of sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt in their own developers!

    I wonder how many developers never even bothered to look at silverlight simply because there's no way of telling when it will get canned, wasting years of investment.

    1. The First Dave


      @Ru: Silverlight already has been canned!


      "The mobile web, by contrast, is as free as Android, or more so, but harder to develop"

      Really? Maybe it's just me, but writing pure HTML and viewing the results seems an awful lot easier than having to compile a proper App, submit it to whatever store, then re-compile for all the other platforms...

    2. Daniel 1

      There's no point killing a corpse, as well

      Silverlight was a 'Flash killer', but it looks like Flash might well be expiring of its own accord. Rumours of Flash's imminent demise have long been propagated, but the current zeitgeist, in terms of mobile development - around its bugginess, or the idea that it kills battery life, for instance - is going to deal it a lethal injury soon unless action is taken.

      So it's not just Microsoft doing the dead chicken dance; it's also Adobe. In a world where the vendors cannot tell a compelling story about their offerings, the 'no vendor solution' gets the investment, no matter how good or bad it is. The fact that this is true, even within Microsoft itself, is just an indication of what a Wild West, of internal competition and rivalry, the internal development process within Microsoft often is.

  9. Flossie

    Java isn't dead

    Android apps are mostly written in Java (although because of the trademark issues they can't say that it is java), so Java is hardly dead.

    I also agree with the above comment that HTML 5 doesn't exist yet. It is still a draft specification and is likely to remain so for some time. HTML 5 support in our products is turned off by default for this reason since we cannot guarantee the consistency of the end result.

  10. Francis Fish

    Scala for Android

    Still looking into it, but much less typing and messing about with bazillions of anonymous inner classes. And it's not C pretending to be a bad implementation of smalltalk.

  11. IGnatius T Foobar

    Microsoft's decline

    Microsoft continues its decline into irrelevance. If they'd abandon their focus on platform monopolization they could build desirable development tools for all sorts of mobile platforms, but obviously they won't do that.

    I do hope that HTML5 becomes the standard for everything, though. Open is good.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    @Ditching .NET

    Boy, am I glad I never paid for my copies of Visual Studio over the past 10 years!

    Mind you, I've still invested lots of time in learning the APIs.

    Bring on HTML5 & JavaScript or whatever MS replaces VS.NET with. I quite like Javascript but prefer C#. What we need a is decent IDE that allows C# development of web pages to hide all of that code-infront, code-behind, AJAX shenanegins.

  13. Tom 7

    HTML5 does exist

    but given MS inability to actually write valid HTML4 after 13 years I don't hold out much hope for anything they make producing code that will work on anything other than IE9 o whatever they need to push to get everyone to upgrade for the same vacant promise they made for W3.1

  14. Christian Berger

    The mobile app bubble is going to burst... soon as decent high bandwidth low latency internet is available for mobile devices anyhow, so why care.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Java is stronger than ever, the article missed "ME"

    As as already been commented: not only is Java *the* technology if you want to do anything Android, it is also powering most of the serious Web (GMail, eBay, FedEx, etc.) and it is *also* generating countless websites using GWT. The article referred to a text mentioning that the idiocy that "Java ME" was is losing ground fastly. I've done mobile development in Java ME "back in the days" and it was a terrible experience: Java ME VMs were super buggy.

    But in 2011 saying that Java is the biggest loser is totally shortsighted: Android is the huge winner and so are Linux and Java.

    Saying Java is the loser would be like saying Un*x is losing ground in the mobile space when both Apple (BSD) and Android (Linux) are basically raping the entire market.

    Very sad to see The Reg quoting such misinformed persons. Prompted me to open an account.

  16. metadevuk

    .NET, c# and Silverlight are all in robust health

    Silverlight isn't dead and isn't dying either - it’s the foundation for WP7 and has an even bigger role in WP7.1 using Silverlight 4.

    C# and the .NET framework are not going to be shelved either. There are tens of thousands of developers like me writing business critical apps using the technology and while it may not be as glamorous as writing Angry Birds or Halo this business is worth billions of $ a year and pays my mortgage which I doubt that my WP7 mobile app will ever do.

    The info revealed so far on Windows 8 has highlighted HTML5 support but that’s not to say they won't support Apps from WP7 and to do that they need to support Silverlight. The whole live tile thing that features so much in Window 8 is lifted directly from WP7.

    iPad is a success because of its compatibility with iPhone partly because it allows apps to run but mainly because iPhone developers can transfer their skills. Microsoft are not going to alienate their dev community by forcing us to use HTML and Javascript!

  17. Anonymous Coward


    Never a combination of words to fill anyone with confidence.

  18. doperative

    re: Microsoft+HTML: The antidote to iOS and Android

    > Imagine what would happen if Microsoft married its history of exceptional tooling with HTML5?

    The 1960s are calling, and they want their psychedelic drugs back ... All the same, I do love these stream of consciousness pieces from Mat Asay, he's becoming a veritable Tom Wolfe of the tech sector ...

  19. amanfromarse

    Javascript rules..

    Based on the number of projects hosted on github. Right.

    What with github being universally recognised as representative of the developer community?

    If MS push HTML + Javascript as serious developer tools to replace anything, it will effectively be committing suicide.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Mat, get connected to the present

    i don't mean to be rude to you. you don't seem to get what the new smart phones is about. it's about having a rich and natural experience (as much as possible) with that phone. this means no intermediaries (browsers), finger gestures, instant reaction even though the data is not yet there. html and java is a shallow dream on mobile, until they are 100% integrated in the kernel of the phone. which i doubt will ever happen ....

    www is not made for smart phones. it feels (and be honest to yourselves) like you're leaving the rich and perfectly consistent world of your phone for a little window to a poor dimension - it's like having to go to the library instead of having the book home. Where the book home is hardcover and has moving pictures in colour while at the library you have the old paperback black ink and yellow paper version.

  21. Steve McPolin


    Wasn't this the original iPhone story - no real apps, just weird little web thingies? MS has a habit of making stupendous profits duplicating older Apple technologies, but hasn't the ship sailed on this?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More developers care about the cost of the tools than revenue potential?

    What does that say about the type of developers being polled? It seems to me they were talking to amateur developers who aren't willing to make an investment in their work.

    1. Walt French

      Just one of many non-sequiturs

      My favorite was that app developers were looking to extend their brands thru mobile apps (not wanting revenues but more usage from each relationship), but they are frustrated that they cannot rise to the top in the crowded app stores, on which they depend for marketing.

      They got brands or ain't they?

      Or maybe it was that Apple leads the pack in developers' access to current users and revenues, but Android is better because developers want access besides revenues (of which, most developers don't get enough to cover the cost of pizza for the late-night coding sessions).

      And WP7 is in developers' hearts despite not having either of the #1 or #2 priorities.

      My guess is that developers never say never, and there is a LOT of MS-aware talent. But you'd have to be pretty masochistic to put much work into porting your app to a platform that shows no signs of getting to 5% market share anytime soon. You can do a lot better by accelerating that bugfix release that another commenter called for.

  23. Mark 65

    App discovery

    From the point in the article, one of the main reasons that app discovery is so poor is that when looking you can browse or search by name but aren't presented with very good filtering opportunities. Sort by using rating or number of downloads, filter by price, filter by average rating etc. It may be different in the Android marketplace but the iOS app store drives me nuts.

    1. N13L5


      Basically, you had to google the web for '10 best iOS Apps' lists on your computer, and then search by name in the Applestore for the ones that matched what u needed...

      I still do it like that for the android app store.

      Android app store does have one function I like: when looking at an app, underneath the user ratings, you get a short list of 4 similar or otherwise relevant apps...

      Going sideways through the appstore like this has sometimes found me just what I needed, even though you start feeling like you're some kind of crab on a beach with a weirdly limited vision and movement...

  24. Expat Paul

    Imagine what would happen if Microsoft married its history of exceptional tooling

    I take it the job hunt is still going badly then, Matt

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