HTML5 is a buzzword more than a technology. It is a shorthand for a collection of other web technologies that together can make web sites more interactive and engaging, and mobile apps easier to author and cheaper to deploy. The big contributors to HTML5 are:
- CSS3, which lets you provide fluid, hardware-accelerated animation
- the VIDEO tag, which lets you use video in a lot of interesting ways
- the CANVAS tag, which lets you do real-time vector animation
- WebGL, which lets you include hardware-accelerated 3D on web pages
In other words, HTML5 is a tool set that now lets developers do all the things on a web page that used to require Flash and/or Java. And that is critical, since Flash and Java are browser plug-ins that are not available on mobile. And, increasingly, are being dropped from standard desktop installs as well.
While this suite of technologies has been available on mobile for a while (with the exception of WebGL), they haven’t been a viable choice for enterprise, B2B marketing. The problem has been Internet Explorer. It has a vanishing market share among consumers, but it is still king in the enterprise. And until last month, Internet Explorer didn’t support HTML5.
That all changed with IE11, which came out with Windows 8.1 in October, and was released for Windows 7 in November. IE11 has excellent HTML5 support, and remarkably few bugs. There is a catch, of course: Enterprises need to actually deploy the new version of IE. The vast majority of enterprises have moved off Windows XP to Windows 7 already, so the only thing holding them back is inertia. As of this writing, IE11’s market share (3.2%) is currently smaller than the ancient IE6 (4.9%). But a combination of security improvements and the support for HTML5 should help to drive deployment.
We predict that IE11 will be the standard enterprise web browser by mid-2014.
At Kaon, we’ve used Java for more than a decade to deliver 3D product model experiences in the browser. We have been doing research into updating our underlying technology platform for quite some time now, and just last month, we started trials of deploying our new platform that includes HTML5 technologies as a replacement for Java as the 3D viewing platform. The results have been tremendous. The elimination of security warning dialogs alone makes it a much better tool for marketers than Java is today; but in addition to that, the new hardware-accelerated technologies load faster, perform better, and can feature more visual effects (reflections and shadows, for example), than were possible in a purely software-based Java solution.
All new Kaon applications now use this new platform. For web-based 3D models, there is still a Java fallback (which is automatic in our solution) for those users who have not upgraded to modern browser versions. Penetration rates for the updated browsers are growing so rapidly, that we are now at the point where we feel comfortable recommending that enterprises skip the Java fallback for 3D altogether, and simply deploy new Kaon 3D content exclusively in HTML5. And they should probably have Kaon update their existing 3D models to the HTML5 platform to replace the earlier versions currently running on their web sites.
On mobile, there still is no good in-browser 3D solution available, because WebGL has not been enabled on the majority of mobile devices. This should change in the coming years, but for now, the best answer for 3D marketing on mobile continues to be native apps, like the Kaon 3D App. Apps have other benefits on mobile, in particular the ability to run offline, which can be crucial in enterprise selling situations. So we anticipate that even after WebGL appears in mobile browsers, there will still be strong demand from Sales teams for stand-alone apps as well.