There is a definite convergence of solution duality in services like Dropbox, Box, Apple iCloud, and Google Drive. The first two started from being a content synchronization/storage and then moved towards an identity solution, the other two are known to have existing users lured into the cloud storage story. Should they continue to march forward, could this be the strategic delivery platform for HTML5 applications?

platformImagine you own a small business and it uses Box for content sharing and collaboration. At one point, every employee has an account there (even easier with a variety of single sign-on services out there). Before you know, Box will be your company-wide document management hub, in particular since it integrates with other business applications (CRM, marketing and sales tools, etc). The explosion of smartphones and tablets, mobile native and web apps, along with BYOD propels this even further. Being productive does not mean being in the office cubicle anymore.

Your data is stored in that secure, remote storage. Your identity is an integral part of the service. Your business applications already access the data and use that identity information. At this rate, the next logical step is to build your own applications on top of the application platform. Many organizations have the need for a set of customized applications, from a straighforward book-a-meeting-room mini application to something as complicated as HR-finance-engineering integration for new hires. Only the code to build the application is to be constructed, the back-end data storage and user authentication problems are already solved for you.

html5Speaking about code, this is where an application written using web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) can have a slight advantage. Granted, we can already enjoy native mobile apps from the vendor such as Dropbox Carousel, Box OneCloud Text Editor. Still, for applications specific to your business needs, there is seldom a reason to go that far. Functional is the keyword here. Obviously, you want the fastest deployment time possible, with the opportunity for further incremental improvements as the business needs change over the time.

The ultimate key here is when Box, Dropbox, and other similar solutions start to provide a hybrid application container. You can write your app in JavaScript and then get it smoothly deployed and managed via that container. Data access is easy with the existing back-end SDK, security and access control is there with the existing user management SDK.

It will be hard to expect that Google and Apple will provide such an integrated web application and delivery platform, consider each of them has a significant interest in pushing Android and iOS (to be fair, we may see another attempt from Google via the Chrome Apps approach). For Box and Dropbox however, they are in the perfect position to offer a platform which can easily attract a lot of experienced web developers out there.

Could it give the birth of a true integration of HTML5 and cloud technologies?

  • Matthew Kastor

    What? You’re basically talking about using online storage as a hosting provider for static websites and, possibly writing data back by hooking into whatever api they provide. You’ve been able to do that with Google Drive for a long time.

    Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re trying to say. The “5” in HTML5 doesn’t change the nature of hosting, storage, network latency, etc. It just allows more of a web application to be processed client side. Any web application can store and retrieve files if you want it to, that’s super easy and you’d retain control of where those files are stored and who has access to the server. Plus you wouldn’t run into all the restrictions the cloud storage focused services put in place. I’m trying to see the benefit of what you’re talking about because you’re a really smart guy and I must be missing something obvious. Help?

    • This has nothing to do with application development (hardly anything new there, you can always use whatever data back-end with whatever authentication service). This is about application deployment and management, in style of the existing MDM solutions.

      • Matthew Kastor

        XD I get it now. 😀 Thanks man!

  • Michael Mullany

    Ariya, it’s strange you wouldn’t mention Sencha Space as the model for the next generation container – you’re describig exactly what we’ve built.

    • Michael, it’s because I want to focus less on a specific solution and more on the latent advantage those Big Four could someday leverage.

  • L42y

    As far as I know, Amazon AWS provide Cognito Identity for authentication, S3 for storage, DynamoDB for database, etc. They have SDK for browser: http://aws.amazon.com/sdk-for-browser/ I think this is currently the best solution for cloud based HTML5 application.