Mobile devices with HTML5-compatible browsers will total 1.4 billion in 2013, following an annual increase of 87 percent, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.
Although the installed base of this size represents a very potent market for mobile application developers, in practice the vast majority of them continue to choose the native app model over the web for their releases.
"While some two years ago it still looked like 2013 could be the Year of Web App, it’s now looking like that this will prove more like the Year of Hybrid" said Aapo Markkanen, senior analyst at ABI Research.
HTML5 is making strides, but mainly through developers that take advantage of increasingly capable cross-platform development tools.
Meanwhile, there aren’t many signs of full-blown web apps effectively challenging the native way.
However, ABI believes that two parallel trends will help the web to catch up further.
First, it’s expected that the support for HTML5 features and browsers will be gradually baked deeper into operating systems, making the web apps speedier and more responsive.
This will be partially driven by the upcoming wave of open-source platforms -- such as Firefox OS, Sailfish, Tizen, and Ubuntu -- but at the end of the day the most significant factor may turn out to be Android’s eventual convergence with Chrome.
Second, there are the hardware vendors.
"There’s a lot of scope to achieve a more robust HTML5 support already in the chip level," says Markkanen. "Especially Intel has lately displayed strategic interest in pushing the envelope here."
Also Samsung’s collaboration with Mozilla to develop a whole new browser engine, dubbed Servo, is worth following. A truly ground-up mobile browser could certainly ease the bottleneck that currently holds back the mobile web.