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Open-Xchange 2014 Predictions: Forget Native, More Applications Will Move to the Browser

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed article by Rafael Laguna, CEO, Open-Xchange

Forget Native, More Applications Will Move to the Browser

As we all know, the web today is no longer confined to users' desktop or laptop PCs. In fact, IDC estimates that the connected device market will exceed 2B units by the end of 2015, attaining a market value of $735.1B, with tablet sales surpassing PCs annually by 2015.

Personal devices are redefining the way we work and interact, with users expecting the same amount of productivity and functionality on the run as they do in the office. While this trend provides great productivity benefits, it has also given way to a fractured user experience. Now, users have to remember and familiarize themselves with the shortcuts and features of every iteration of every different operating system, in every device, requiring constant - and unnecessary - adjustment as they go about their professional and personal lives.

There is a common thread amongst all of these operating systems, however, and it lies within their ability to run a sophisticated HTML5 Internet browser. Today there are more applications, files and data being hosted online, so it's plain to see that a web-based desktop is the next logical progression. It enables the user to work and play freely, across any device, the way they want to. This brings the user an environment that they're familiar and comfortable with, providing a level of consistency that increases productivity and flexibility.  

HTML5 is quickly becoming the standard for delivering web apps, and as it continues to mature in the year ahead, the delivery of these apps through the web will continue to grow in levels of sophistication, and will change the way content is defined and consumed. The biggest difference between web apps and native apps is in the freedom to be truly mobile, with access to all your data and applications from a device agnostic browser.

As part of its ongoing push to make web apps run as efficiently as native apps, Google recently released its Portable Native Client (PNaCl), a new version of its NaCl technology that enables developers to deliver high performance web applications through compiled native C and C++ code. While PNaCl brings the performance and control of native code to modern web browsers, it has its limitations. For now, PNaCl is only available on Chrome, although developers can make PNaCl applications available on other browsers through the Pepper API from JavaScript.

PNaCl's minor hiccup reinforces the opinions and arguments of the web app vs. native app debate, but let's not forget that the majority of apps are well served with an HTML5/JS combination. While there is always room for improvement, remember what the first generation iPhone was like: it took six years to evolve and become the phone it is today, and that is exactly how disruptive technologies work.

The advantages of running web applications in the browser are simply too compelling, and HTML5/JS is the king of portable app implementation languages, cross-device and cross-manufacturer. As computing becomes more and more fragmented, it is in the developers' interests to be able to ‘write once and run anywhere,' and in 2014 we will see more and more applications being delivered via the web.

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About the Author

Rafael Laguna is CEO and co-founder of Open-Xchange, providing leadership and strategic vision across the organization. Rafael has extensive experience in enterprise software, having previously held the position of VP Marketing and Business Development at SUSE Linux as well as being CEO of Micado, and also acts in an advisory role for the Open Source Business Foundation.
Published Wednesday, December 18, 2013 7:49 AM by David Marshall
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