Google Enhanced Campaigns - An inflexion point for HTML5?

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There has been much anticipation and commentary around HTML5 and how it will alter the mobile "app" landscape (see Telco2.0 posts on this for more background). Many believe the web standard is not yet mature enough to deliver on its promises. However, recent STL Partners' research suggests that we could be reaching an inflexion point in HTML5 adoption and that this could create new opportunities for telcos in the mobile web & apps value chain.

In this blog post, we argue that we shouldn't consider pure HTML5 "apps" as a direct competitor to native apps (e.g. from Apple's appstore and Android Play). Firstly, we point to the next-generation of Google's Adwords as both a driver and indicator of HTML5's progress.

Google Adwords - Enhanced Campaigns

Google Enhanced Campaigns is more than a minor upgrade to Adwords. It will have a major impact on the world of search advertising. Google is bringing a host of improvements to its ad platform and also some smaller yet significant changes. One of these relates to the way that advertisers can determine which devices their ads appear on. Today, marketers & merchants can decide to only advertise to PC browsers (this makes sense if the website is not designed for other devices and many advertisers choose not to place sponsored links to smartphones). However, from the 22nd July, desktop and tablet bids will be forced to be the same as mobile bids, creating a new, unified device targeting functionality.

Website owners who have not sought to build a good mobile user experience will face a predicament. Although not the only solution, HTML5 offers developers a way out as (amongst other things) it is intended to deliver a much better user experience on all devices. It also allows for more functionality to be supported "off-line" in the browser allowing developers to create feature-rich app-like webpages that can be saved as icons on devices.

If a website offers a poor mobile experience, then it is unlikely that the owner will want to pay to drive mobile traffic to it. However, as Google Adwords is removing the option to distinguish between desktops/tablets and mobile users, this provides incentives for the rapid uptake of mobile friendly content. Mobile browsing (increasingly HTML5 content) is expected to receive a boost from this. It is unlikely that Google would do something that would upset a significant proportion of customers, so this is also an indication that Google has confidence that the vast majority of its adwords customers will be ready for the change; many using HTML5.

Don't compare pure HTML5 "apps" with Native apps

Industry commentators are focussing too heavily on a "contest" between pure HTML5 "apps" and native apps. HTML5 is a fast and cost-effective way to create a better mobile web experience using app-like interfaces, but this does not necessarily mean it competes directly with Native apps. For example, smaller companies that do not have the resources to create and maintain a native app (or multiple versions across the different OSs) can use HTML5 to deliver both a desktop and mobile experience that work on any mobile device. It can be developed once and it will run on many different platforms, making it cheaper and easier to maintain.

What is telcos' role in the growth of HTML5?

STL Partners has recently undertaken research into HTML5 and the opportunities, rewards and challenges that its growth can bring for Telcos. Our findings suggest that there is a real chance for Telcos to secure a role in an emerging content and apps value chain, especially as the growth of HTML5 creates needs around monetisation, discovery and distribution (since HTML5 apps do not have to be sourced though a traditional native app ecosystem, such as Apple's appstore or Google Play).

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