August 23, 2011, 1:26 PM

Vendors and developers are upping the ante with HTML5

Velti places its bet on a system that makes sites act like apps.

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The buzz around HTML5 is getting louder. The up-and-coming web programming language is of special concern to retailers in mobile commerce—and retailers planning to dive into m-commerce—because it enables m-commerce web sites to look and function more like their richer, more robust mobile app counterparts.

“HTML5 gives sites app-like characteristics; it’s like having it all,” says Dimitrios Kontarinis, vice president of innovation at Velti, a mobile marketing firm that builds mobile web sites.

Velti has just released a new system built using HTML5 that enables merchants to use a “visual editor” to build mobile sites by uploading creative assets and dragging and dropping them where they like in a template format. Called 5ml, the system today can build only mobile sites that can be used to do such things as promote products and enable cross-channel research; it does not enable a shopping cart, though that’s in the works.

Merchants using the 5ml system and developers at retailers building m-commerce sites in-house can do many things with HTML5 that cannot be done with previous versions of the language. For example, when building a mobile site they can use software development kits, or SDKs, to access features and functions of a smartphone that previously were only available to mobile apps. They can incorporate a smartphone’s GPS technology, for instance, to build a one-touch store locator. Or they can pull a device’s accelerometer into play, enabling consumers to do such things as shake a device to change the appearance or content of a site.

Other vendors are using HTML5 to innovate in the mobile space. Adobe Systems Inc., for example, has released a new program called Edge, which enables developers to present animations in HTML5 rather than Adobe’s Flash technology, which does not work on mobile devices from Apple Inc.

Adoption of HTML5 is rapidly increasing, says Roy Satterthwaite, senior vice president of global marketing at Velti.

“One counterpoint was maybe there are not enough smartphones or tablets, but these devices are booming right now. That’s one reason to go with a technology that offers superior user experience and interactivity,” Satterthwaite says. “The primary reasons for using HTML5 are the interactivity with a device, the fact that you can have all the app-like features, and the fact that HTML5 is a technology that can be applied across different smartphone and tablet platforms.”

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