Friday Jan 08, 2010

Web Apps vs Native Apps: Will we ever fully switch?

When Apple introduced the iPhone, the story was that we didn't need native apps, instead the Web was the application environment and apps should just be written to run in a browser (Mobile Safari).  This didn't last too long as Apple succumbed and the App Store was born and by all accounts, other than developers who can't get their apps approved, it has been a wild success.  I have to wonder though if Steve intentionally made the whole process somewhat onerous to try to encourage folks to still write to the Web as a better and preferred way to get apps to the device.

The success of Apple's App Store has led to other "app stores" or "marketplaces" from mobile phone providers to carriers to the Java Store and more.  So it isn't terribly surprising to see Intel launch a netbook app store, although I have to wonder if the motivation is just to keep up with the Jetsons or if this is the right model for netbooks.  After all, isn't the point of the netbook to leverage Web applications?  If so, is having a store for native apps really needed or desired?  It would seem it is just giving users a crutch to avoid making the transition to the world of applications on the Web.

So why is this?  It is a combination of several things including more developers being comfortable and adept at creating native apps, HTML5 not being ready yet (an excuse for the original iPhone, less of one now), and users being familiar with native apps or fearing not having access if they are out of range of the network so thinking they have to have them.

But there are significant advantages to a world of Web apps.

For developers, while it may never truly be write a single Web app and use it from any device, there is a whole lot more reuse and leverage from creating apps for the Web rather than creating N native variations.  Particularly when platforms like the iPhone refuse to support Java or insist on requiring development in Objective C.  Being able to have an addressable market of multiple mobile and desktop platforms is a huge advantage over targeting one specific platform.

For users, using Web apps allow access to the same app and data from any device without having to perform complex and error prone synchronizations.  Whether you need to access your e-mail, calendar, documents, games, whatever, being able to do so from multiple devices should be a huge benefit if users can just get over the notion that they don't have the app in their possession on their device.

So when will the transition occur?  It will happen first with mobile and lighter weight "netbook" type of devices.  These are (or should be) designed for the Web and will have less storage and general horsepower to run native apps and so are well suited to it.  It perhaps will take something like Chrome OS to do it as other Windows, Linux, or OS X based devices will always have at their core an OS built for native apps.  Chrome OS will change this as far as we can tell.

In the mean time, go ahead and make it a point to ask "could this be a Web app" when creating that next application.  You may be surprised what is possible and how many more devices and users you can reach. 

Monday Nov 23, 2009

links for 2009-11-23: Steve Jobs hates the App Store; ChromeOS

Friday Aug 28, 2009

links for 2009-8-28: Flight Delay Predictions; Store wind power as compressed air; WPA cracked; iPhone App Store trevails

  • FlightCaster - AWS-Powered Flight Delay Prediction - Cool idea, I'll give it a shot on my next flight. Blurb in story about it running on AWS and being built on a budget less than $1M. I'm not sure I'd call less than 60 minutes only "slightly delayed" though! Also interesting the web-site is free, iPhone app is $4.99, but then BlackBerry app is $9.99.
  • PG&E to compress air to store wind power - Sounds more efficient for handling bursts than the other alternatives.
  • Researchers crack WPA Wi-Fi encryption in 60 seconds - All the more reason to use WPA2.
  • Not wanting to expose NSFW links, 1 in 4 Firefox 2 users avoid upgrading to FF3 - This is hilarious.  Folks, if you don't want a trail, don't visit the site!  But the new feature is nice.
  • Dear Apple: Where’s Facebook 3.0? - If getting Facebook 3.0 out sooner will result in selling more iPhones and iPod Touches, Apple cares.  If not, they don't care about how quickly or even if apps get approved.  There are over 50,000 apps now and that is what they market.  And there is an existing Facebook app there already.  What difference does it make to the general population and thus their market, the consumer, if a few don't make it or this new Facebook app takes a little while?  Have we not learned that yet?  Further, if Apple were to give preferential treatment to approving this app quicker, that would only serve to set precedent that if you announce submission to the world you get better treatment.  I wouldn't be surprised if they actually drag their feet on this one to set an example.

Tuesday Aug 25, 2009

links for 2009-8-25: HTML5; Frustrated App Store Developers

Tuesday Jul 14, 2009

links for 2009-7-14: Windows Share Drops; App Store; Office Web Apps; IE Still Toxic

Tuesday Jun 30, 2009

links for 2009-6-30: Windows 7, iPod Touch, New App Store

Monday May 11, 2009

iPhone App Store - Reality of Myth?

When I bought my iPhone around Christmas last year, I fully intended to play around with developing applications for it, but hadn't even downloaded the SDK ... until this past weekend.

So I downloaded and installed the SDK and was able to build a sample app and run it in the simulator, but now I wanted to get it on my phone to run it there.  This is where I started to learn more things than I had thought I'd wanted or needed to learn.

While I have the required Intel based Mac and am running OS X 10.5 (paid to upgrade it from 10.4), and I have an iPhone, it turns out that Apple hasn't made enough money off me yet and insist that I pay $99 to join the iPhone Developer Program to be able to put an app I develop onto a phone I already own.  Now, I'm just looking to play around with the SDK and apps on the phone and am not ready to start selling an app on the App Store to recoup my $99, so I go about researching what other options there are but in the process learn more about what would happen after I would pay my $99 if I chose to go that route, and this is where it gets more scary.

I found this record of Michael Ash's experience with going through the whole process and learn of delays and complications and other issues that all in all make the whole process sound somewhat less than what I'm looking for.  If I had an app I was ready to sell I'd probably have the incentive to wade through the whole process and figure out how to make it all work.  But for someone just wanting to try things out, Apple has put a pretty big barrier to entry in place.  And from many of the comments to Michael's experience, he isn't alone.  It boggles my mind how Apple can get away with this, but it appears there are enough developers who will endure what they have to do.

But since I'm not, at least yet, I continue looking, and as I've written about jailbreaking before, I look into what that provides for.  I discover that one can simply copy an app built with the SDK to a jailbroken iPhone, but you have to do self/pseudo signing of the app and there is a tool to do this on the iPhone, "ldid", but when I try to use it I'm getting the following error:

 util/ldid.cpp(418): _assert(0:arch != NULL)

So this isn't fully working for me yet, but I'm still working on it.

Last, it appears that if you sell your wares on the App Store and folks return your app, Apple will be taking money out of your pocket!  You'd think that the 30% they take from the sales would cover their costs, but alas, I guess not.

But the bottom line is that it would seem that for many (most?) folks, getting access to developing apps on the iPhone and ultimately getting them in the App Store may be a myth.  What are your thoughts or experiences?  And does anyone know how to get past the error above?

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