Microsoft looking to go HTML for cross-platform apps


20, 2014

It seems pretty soon Microsoft will be known to be as cross platform as WhatsApp and Facebook.

The company is aggressively courting users on iOS and Android, and is bringing their apps to as many platforms as possible.

Of course supporting so many platforms is resource intensive, and a now a new job post on Microsoft’s Career boards made it clear how Microsoft plans to achieve this.

Microsoft plans to use HTML-based apps, mainly by using the cross-platform open source Cordova framework by Apache.

They write:

The HTML Experiences team, as part of the Visual Studio organization, delivers modern tooling for mobile apps built using HTML and JavaScript.   Our mission is to provide industry leading development tooling for service-connected HTML apps, and to boost developer productivity while enabling the creation of highly differentiated apps.   We target the cross-platform Cordova framework for Android/iOS/Windows 8/Windows Phone, as well as the native Windows Web Application platform for Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Apache Cordova is a set of device APIs that allow a mobile app developer to access native device function such as the camera or accelerometer from JavaScript. Combined with a UI framework such as jQuery Mobile or Dojo Mobile or Sencha Touch, this allows a smartphone app to be developed with just HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

When using the Cordova APIs, an app can be built without any native code (Java, Objective-C, etc) from the app developer. Instead, web technologies are used, and they are hosted in the app itself locally (generally not on a remote http server).

And because these JavaScript APIs are consistent across multiple device platforms and built on web standards, the app should be portable to other device platforms with minimal to no changes.

Cordova is the basis of Phonegap, which may be more familiar to developers and apps using Cordova are still packaged as apps using the platform SDKs, and can be made available for installation from each device’s app store.

Cordova is available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Palm WebOS, Bada, and Symbian.

Microsoft is working on creating better development tools using these frameworks to help developers create HTML apps even more easily.

While Microsoft’s strategy is clear, it is of note that Facebook has tried going down this route before, and ultimately abandoned HTML5 apps, with Mark Zuckerberg calling it their biggest mistake.

Do our readers think Microsoft may be barking up the wrong tree? Let us know below.

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