The HTML5 rush, Too Many Pick and Shovel vendors

The HTML5 rush, Too Many Pick and Shovel vendors

html5 gold

When the Californian Hills called, many gold rush prospectors put aside their savings to head west and try their luck.  Some were able to afford claims while others joined consortiums to mine a specific area with a varying level of success. A few other entrepreneurs focused on servicing the miners and selling them tools. From that time grew the legend that you were better off selling picks and shovels rather than panning for gold.

The same drive to supply picks and shovels is happening today in the world of apps and the rise of HTML5 is merely speeding up the process.  There is now a bounty of options to choose from when implementing your HTML5 application.  You may think that diversity and freedom of choice is a good thing. However, ask most software professionals and they will tell you that this boom in “picks and shovels” is hindering the development process and potentially slowing down adoption.  How is that so?  Simply consider some “basic” tools you have to pick from from when building your app:

  • “Development Environment”:  You have the full spectrum of options from your friendly text editor to Visual Studio and Eclipse. Let’s not forget vendors such as Intel with their XDK, IMB, and other online-based solutions.
  • “Framework”:  Frameworks vary greatly in scope and purpose and often focus on a specific technology related to HTML5.  There are CSS frameworks, HTML5 templates, and of course the slew of JavaScript based frameworks (Jquery for example).
  • “API tools”:  These days you can find APIs for everything and often times several vendors are competing in the same space.  Take telephony for example.  Twilio is an obvious provider, though there are many other competing options with very compelling stories. Geolocation, storage. forms…APIs are everywhere and that’s without even considering the big elephant in the room: Online payments.
  • “Support environment”: By support environment, think of all the tools that you can use from prototyping to QA, to live testing.  Trying to list all of them would make this week’s blog look like a remake of War and Peace.

So we definitely are not at a loss for options and this can slow down HTML5 adoption:

  • Without clear industry leaders to chose from, it is quite understandable that smaller IT groups will take a “wait and see” approach before investing into learning and using a specific set of tools.
  • At the opposite end of the spectrum, larger groups with resources to spare may spend extra time testing and reviewing their options before deciding on which one to adopt, however, this process will take time and will hinder the development cycles.
  • With slowed adoption times on the initial projects, there is also a risk of project failure:  The information superhighway is littered with tools and frameworks that were once vibrant and are now barely supported. If you invested into a tool that is no longer supported, your business may be dramatically impacted.

Is there a Silver Bullet? Maybe…

  • There is a large opportunity for “picks and shovels” vendors to capture their space. Companies that will succeed will likely resemble Twilio in the sense that they will simplify the creation process,  thus lowering the barriers to entries, all the while providing powerful controls to deliver scalable and enterprise level apps.
  • App developers have an opportunity to improve their ROI by selecting the tools that best fit their needs and knowledge rather than facing a large learning curve.
  • Most importantly, thanks to the spread of social media, the “picks and shovels” market is definitely becoming a buyers’ market where people can influence features and development path to an extent that was not possible even just a decade ago.


I’d like to close this blog with an invite:  I often get comments and questions via other channels (email, twitter) though I would like to encourage you to write down a comment and tell us which environments you have run into and liked (and why), this will be a great way to share knowledge and help readers in the future.