Once upon a time, there was a closed ecosystem controlled by a single company. Everyone enjoyed using this system, but were limited to what was on offer inside the walled garden. Eventually, though, the open ecosystem grew and caught up, and eventually everyone left the closed-off walled garden to embrace the open ecosystem.I'm talking about the initial days of the internet and AOL's walled garden. When AOL was initially offering the internet, it was a completely closed-off system. It worked great for a few years, until the open internet surpassed the utility of the closed off system because of its higher degree of innovation and rapid pace of development, eventually rendering the closed system obsolete. It is important to note here, that the initial closed system was essential - It proved the value of the internet to the population at large, and created the initial ecosystem of websites and users, without which the open internet would not have become as popular as it did.
The same story is repeating itself in the mobile ecosystem. First Apple, then Android have popularized the concept of smartphones and apps, and shown to the population at large how valuable these devices and apps are. However, as the fragmentation in the market increases (there's already several platforms - iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, with Microsoft preparing for a big onslaught), that the only reasonable way forward for app developers is to embrace an open standard for developing apps that work across all these platforms in an open and inter-operable way.
Enter HTML5. These are set of standards that are aimed towards a high-degree of compatibility across all platforms. But this time around, the transition to the open standard is going to be far easier - Most mobile browsers already have a very high degree of support for HTML5. And if you think about it, Apple, Google et. al. have an incentive to move to HTML5 as well, since they'd rather control the devices and payments channels (which they can still do with HTML5) rather than maintain a huge proprietary system that is at risk of becoming obsolete.
HTML5 is still very nascent in the minds of developers - It'll probably take another year or two for large apps to succeed. However, the apps that are going to become popular on this platform are being written (or at least thought about) right now. The transition is already under way. The Financial Times is preparing to kill its iOS app in favor of an HTML5 app. Facebook will soon allow you to sell paid HTML5 apps. The Chrome app store is growing by the day, with dozens of games and other utilities, all using HTML5.
If you're a startup thinking about which platforms to prioritize for your mobile app, consider thinking about HTML5 as a platform.
Adopting a new platform may sound risky, but there is plenty of help around. Facebook has thrown its weight behind HTML5, and yesterday announced a more serious effort at building an app store. Companies like Intel have a huge set of resources for startups investing in HTML5 - Everything from tutorials, SDKs and even venture capital funding is available to startups that want to explore and invest in HTML5. Consider reaching out to these programs and engaging with them. Having the support of large company like Intel behind your startup could smooth over some of the bumps you will face when adopting a new platform.
The transition to new platforms is seldom straightforward, but the first adopters start with a huge first-mover advantage. There are lots of signs that a platform shift is coming soon. Do you want to jump on the bandwagon?