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What do you think?

 

Is it better to build mobile applications for iPhone, iPad, Droid, etc. or to build a rich mobile web app?  Is this the same question that we all were dealing with 10 years ago?  Will we see the same progression from fat to thin applications on mobile devices?

 

I'm a proponent of building great applications for the "now" market while at the same time building the skillsets that will be needed to sustain the app.  In this case, the skillsets, some of the architectures, and the philosophies (iTunes store vs. open standards) are different.  Maybe HTML5 will be where the two intersect?

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if the browser integrates better, then perhaps mobile web app.  I think you're right though with HTML5s offline storage and caching I think you'd be able to get a decent mobile web app soon.  Google comes real close on many of it's mobile web apps, but it still loads in the browser so is a little slower, with the extra step of opening the browser, than a native app.  Also, native apps can interact with the local device a little better.
Great point on the local device integration.  I hate re-making some of the same mistakes that have plagued the client-app market forever: device compatibility and dependency, specialized and multiple skillsets, and whatnot.  I'm guilty of it, both personally and professionally, but I'm wondering if doing a full press on HTML would be sufficient for most apps.  Maybe depends on the market?
I'm working on a web app right now and I think I'll go the Google line of development.  Mobile web app first for wider access, then develop for the mobile devices, to possibly offer a better user experience.  I say possibly because the main drawback to the mobile web apps I've used is startup time. With the, whole dual core and gigabytes of memory being dumped into the phones now that might become a non issue.
As browsers get more and more capabilities I wonder if native apps will be legacy in 5 years.
I'm not sure what 'native app' means anymore.

I think in many ways, it depends on who your Customer (or Potential Customer) is, and what your Product does. From a Business Perspective, I consider Web App's and Native App's to be different Distribution Channels with their own Pro's and Con's. From a Marketing perspective, I think it's important to consider how each Distribution Channel appeals to different types of Customers. Of course the best approach here is to do Both. Cover all potential Distribution Channels, and reach as many Customers as possible. But from a Technical Perspective, this might not be possible. If this is the case, I would try to identify with the Customer and choose the Distribution Channel that will allow you to reach the most Potential Customers.

I personally believe that HTML5/CSS3/JS is the future of Cross-Platform Distribution. But there is much more work to be done before Web App's run as good as Native App's. Smooth scrolling, tap speed, render speed; There are many aspects of Web App's that just aren't at the level of Native App's yet (from a performance perspective), especially on iOS Devices (due to Webkit/Nitro). And this is coming from a Web App Developer that owns both iOS and Android, so you know I'm not just talking smack. There is a reason Facebook dumped HTML5 regarding their iOS Client. Maybe (hopefully) this is fixed in iOS6. I think we will eventually get to a point where Web App and Native App become the same thing. And then you go look over at Windows 8, where the "Distribution Channel" blurs the line between Mobile and Desktop, and their Dev Studio (Visual Studio - LightSwitch) allows you to build Native App's using HTML5/CSS3/JS; Cross-Platform Distribution takes on a whole new meaning (Mobile, Tablet, Desktop). Hopefully the rest of the Industry follows suit!

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