It seems like HTML5 is finally gaining grounds in the app space as FT removes its app from App Store today. Amazon launched its HTML5 version of Kindle Cloud Reader recently to dodge the Apple’s new rule on content subscription and FT seems to be following similar strategy.
Some see it as a fight between HTML5 and iOS native apps, but the same applies to Android Market and other online software stores (trying not to get into trouble with the App Store trademark). Apple support both HTML5 and their own App Store anyway, so they are not losing the FT app as such. What it seems like is that they lost the 30% revenue from these apps. I hold the view that Apple is not hugely profiting from the App Store or even the wider iTunes Store, look at their SEC filings each year and you will see that the money they make from these are insignificant comparing to their hardware sales and they are investing very heavily on their hosting, transaction, development and other infrastructure to keep the growth of the platform going.
Amazon stands a good chance to pull this off as they already have a world class hosting and transaction platform, but for FT and other firms thinking of switching to HTML5, they need to be sure of their in-house capability. Mobile usage is growing very quickly and a poor infrastructure will not be sufficient to support the evermore demanding users. 30% (or 10% in Android’s case) seems expensive, but not having to worry about your own hosting and have a good user experience with simple payment will help to cover such costs.
Also to note is that using HTML5 means relying on the proactiveness of the open standard group. HTML5 started around 2004 and its uptake amongst developers has been rather slow. It is interesting to note that Apple is one of the key driver of HTML5 and released their webkit project to the opensource community which are in virtually all smartphones except Windows Mobile.
The point about sharing user data is also invalid in my view. When you buy FT from a newstand, even if you paid by credit card, they don’t get the contact information. Sure, for subscriptions, they used to get it, but the readers only gave it because they need the delivery. I am sure when they sign up to a subscription, they didn’t hope to give their address out because they will receive more unsolicited or simply junk mail, but publishers often treat them as their value and assets. I happen to like the current mobile app model (I am sure Google will have similar things eventually), is that when I have subscribed to the content, I get it, and they can push stuff to be whilst I still have their app installed, I also have the choice to truly opt-in to allow my information to be shared with the provider. That’s how subscription should have worked, we just never had the mass deployed technology to do that before. We can’t reference the old wrong way to drive our future.
Not that I don’t understand FT publishes its own content, but fighting with platforms shouldn’t be what content providers do. Their aim should have been to focus on the quality of their content and try hard to publish to as many platforms they can. The cut they have to share with the different platform could have been factored in to the pricing of each form, we always had expensive hardbacks and cheaper paperbacks.
I am not negative about HTML5 at all, we are using it at work, we want to build more great apps on it. iPad is still hot, people are still enjoying reading on iPad, most major publishers are now on iPad, their apps are searchable on the App Store. I just find it funny that FT would rather be the odd one at this moment. They could have just released the HTML5 version alongside (just like what Amazon did) and compare the results.