Many companies have struggled to develop an overarching strategy for dealing with evolving ways of using the web, the explosion of social media, and the growth of casual — and sometimes not so casual — web use by mobile users.
While platforms like Blackberry, iPhone, and Android have for some time had the ability to browse to and present conventional websites designed for desktop browsers, much of the ‘action’ for early adopting companies has focused on the native application scene — where users go to an official download ‘store’ to get their free and paid apps which are then downloaded and stored on their mobile’s internal storage. Because such native apps typically have access to a fairly complete application programming interface (API), they can manipulate parts of the phone (like the camera or storage systems). Of course, with power comes responsibility resting on the back of developers — as well as a potential for paranoia or at least a certain amount of nervousness about granting such apps access to all the personal info stored on their phones.
That — combined with costs, time delays and other difficulties in native getting apps approved by various platform gatekeepers — has opened the way for app-like mobile-centric pages with features optimized for mobile platforms. There may not be access to the working innards of the phone — but that may actually make users feel considerably more confident.
And then there’s the hassle factor. If your company wants to create a mobile gateway app to their public facing online services or for basic promotional/informational purposes, which sounds like a more streamlined process: trying to persuade the user to go to the app store for his device, search through thousands of competing apps, find your app, confirm it’s really what they want, confirm any permissions you have to grant to the software to run, download it, and finally run it – or give them a simple URL, QR code, or search keyword that they can point their phone browser to, automatically loading the web app. No need for multiple sites or apps, just write your web app once in standard HTML5 code and serve all modern platforms. When you need to update, no need to push updates out or hope that your users will approve the update.
Of course, without a full device API, there are very real limits to what a web app can do — but many of those limitations will be unlikely to be of great concern to many enterprises who, after all, aren’t angling to be the next Instagram but simply want to serve and inform customers and potential customers.
But even those limitations will will be easing as web standards continue to evolve and provide us more access to generic mobile device features, as this article from .NET Magazine suggests…
The age of mobile web apps dawns