Microsoft plays catch-up on apps, banks on HTML5

Giorgio Sardo, Microsoft's Windows Evangelism Director, demonstrates an HTML5 desktop game that can be played through the Windows Phone 8's IE10 browser.

MANILA, Philippines — To be able to catch up with rival ecosystems iOS and Android, Microsoft is betting its money on a relatively new programming language that, it predicts, will eventually become the standard language for most mobile and desktop apps in the future.

The software giant said it is banking on HTML5, a new version of the popular mark-up language that became the foundation of the World Wide Web, to encourage developers to program apps and other software for its newly released Windows 8 operating system for mobile phones, tablets and desktops, .

Giorgio Sardo, director of Windows Evangelism at Microsoft, said the language, along with Java, will entice more developers to create more applications for the Windows platform since these are two languages that most software programmers are already familiar with.

“It’s no secret that we built Windows in a way that HTML5 and Java developers could build more apps easily,” Sardo, who is in the country this week, told a group of local technology reporters. “And it’s definitely paying off. Companies are really happy to be able to build apps on our platform.”

Unlike Apple’s vast iOS ecosystem and Google’s Android platform, Windows has been playing catch-up since arriving late into the “app” and mobile game. While both iOS and Android already has millions of apps between them, the Windows platform — particularly mobile — only has about 120,000 apps to date.

But Sardo said HTML5 could be that magic bullet that would aid Microsoft in populating its mobile and desktop stores, since the language is mainly platform-agnostic, meaning apps created for the Web or notebooks could easily be deployed in smartphones or tablets.

It also solves the problem of fragmentation — or the proliferation of different types of devices with varying specifications — that had, since time immemorial, plagued the open Android platform, making it hard for game developers to deliver a consistent experience across a variety of phones and tablets.

Faith on HTML5

The Microsoft executive actually led the porting of a popular iOS and Android game, Cut The Rope, from its traditional language and into HTML5, making it one of the major app releases to ever make it to Microsoft’s app ecosystem.

Sardo said Cut The Rope’s transition to HTML5 only proves the capabilities of the language, since it’s one of the more complex games ever released for iPhone and Android phones.

“Normally, if a game works in HTML5, most likely any type of application would work, too. It’s a good benchmark for real-word scenarios, and we’re confident that any other simpler app would work even better,” he said.

Sardo merely brushed off a recent comment by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of social networking giant Facebook, who described the company’s use of HTML5 as a “big mistake” in terms of creating apps for mobile platforms.

“When I saw that comment from Mark, I laughed,” Sardo said, grinning. “Seriously, if we can build complex games on HTML5, then why can’t we build apps like Facebook effectively on it?”

To demonstrate its commitment to the language, Sardo said Microsoft has invested both time and finances in perfecting its standards by actively participating in the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), a community of companies working to develop Web standards.

Sardo said more than 80 full-time Microsoft employees are currently working with the W3C to fully develop HTML5 into a language that would define the future of app development.