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Brightcove: Hybrid HTML5/Native Development Wins The Day

With superfluous "over talk" of cloud services obscuring our view of the command line and the application-centric issues affecting developers, it is refreshing to find some discussion of programmers' challenges amongst the quagmire. Cloud content services company Brightcove says that a hybrid application development approach embracing both native and HTML5 technologies is key to developer success in the current climate.

Brightcove's VP of technology Ashley Streb says that for cross-platform, content-centric apps, this approach saves both time and money as native apps are most easily distributed through big brand app stores, while browser-based apps have no formal distribution channels.

In terms of ease of development, Streb says that HTML5 wins for content-related tasks, as it's easier to format content using HTML and CSS instead of using native iOS or Android libraries. He asserts that there is no comparison between the complexity of creating a table view in iOS and the simplicity of creating a list of things in HTML.

Attempting to position his company's Brightcove App Cloud platform and accompanying SDK as something of a panacea here, Streb writes on his blog, "Since App Cloud apps are native apps, they can be distributed through app stores. Development in App Cloud requires no compilation step and no complex tooling like XCode or the Android Developer Tools. App Cloud compiles apps in the cloud."

Drawing further points of juxtaposition here, Streb suggests that browser-based apps are forbidden from accessing certain device capabilities like the camera and address book (for obvious security reasons). These restrictions make it hard or even impossible to develop features like photo sharing and offline storage. Once again, native wins the day. Similarly, native application development may win when it comes to monetization, as developers don't have to build their own billing systems and users don't have to reenter their payment information with each purchase.

HTML5 may have the edge when it comes to speed of iteration and overall development; the "walled gardens" of native platforms could make it costly to reach the widest possible audience, but web technologies have no boundaries.

"HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are eminently reusable across platforms, so web developers don't need to throw away their bag of tricks when coming to hybrid apps. In fact, developers can use popular libraries and frameworks like jQuery. And code created in App Cloud can be repurposed for mobile-optimized websites and touch web apps," said Streb.

Clearly Brightcove's Streb is on hand at every positive and negative here to suggest that his company's wares can competently straddle the plus points of both native and HTML5-based development. Marketing messages aside, his words do perhaps suggest some interesting pointers for developers trying to analyze how they should best balance the power of native platforms with the economies of the Web: open standards, wide adoption, and lower barriers to entry.

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