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The HTML 5 Crack in Apple's Walled App Garden

Apple's (AAPL) successful strategy depends on walled garden ecosystems for such iconic products as the iPad and iPhone. Customers get applications and media content directly from Apple, locking them in as customers. But the company may have made an enormous mistake with its subscription plan for content purchasing.

Apple wants a 30 percent slice of the business. That may push influential third party developers away from native iPhone and iPad apps and toward HTML5-based applications, which would be a crack in the garden walls that have held together Apple's strategy.

The problem happens if big names with subscription offerings find that a 30 percent Apple cut is untenable, and so look for other ways to market. The music service Rhapsody discussed an interest in "legal and business responses" in coordination with other affected companies. And although there are potential legal problems for Apple, there is a larger and more immediate issue: HTML5 applications.

Instead of submitting apps for Apple's approval, companies could create HTML5-based software that would run in a browser on an iOS device -- or on the mobile devices of any other vendor with HTML5 browser support. The move would complete avoid Apple's app store and any permanent tie to the company's ecosystem. The company Readibility, which provides a service that strips out ads from Web-based text for easier reading, has just gone HTML5 after its app had been rejected for not providing a subscription link for the app store:

The result of that and two weeks of fast-paced work is a full-on HTML5 version of their app, which Readability is releasing today. The web app is specifically designed for both mobile and tablets, using some of the more advanced aspects of HTML5, including offline storage support.And as you can see in the image above, thanks to HTML5, it will work on a lot more than just Apple devices. Because Apple rejected them, Android is getting some love too. "It's an update and a statement of sorts," co-founder Richard Ziade says.
Readability is still trying to get Apple to approve its app, especially as Steve Jobs supposedly wrote that the subscription requirement was for publishers, not companies selling Web-based services.

It's still to be seen how Apple defines "publishers" and services. Getting software into Apple user hands is more difficult outside the app store. Yet, even that might not be necessary with a native wrapper for an HTML5 application. Certainly developers would rather write software once and have it run on virtually every mobile platform rather than porting from one to another (time consuming) or using a multi-platform framework (learning curve and larger code).

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Image: morgueFile user gracey, site standard license.
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