Apple’s App Store has been a smashing success. Last week, Apple announced that more than three billion apps had been downloaded from the App Store since its inception 18 months ago. It’s almost hard to imagine the time when there were no third-party apps. But have Apples’ actions, coupled with web technologies, threatened the future of the App Store?
Apple’s missteps with the App Store have been well-publicized, from the pulling of all apps that supported Google Voice, to the seemingly random approval and rejection of some apps. Naturally, certain app developers became disgruntled over events like these. Can you blame them? Would you want to invest significant time and money to develop an app, and not know if you’d ever be able to sell it? Developers now have other options.
HTML 5 is what could change all of this. The simple explanation of HTML 5 is that it is an improvement in HTML, the predominant language used to develop web pages. It will allow developers to make pages more full-featured without the need for plugins like Flash, Java, or Silverlight. The iPhone already supports some HTML 5 features, and, as a result, some developers see an opportunity to use HTML 5 to make an end run around the App Store.
One such example of this is Voice Central, which was one of the Google Voice apps that Apple pulled from the App Store. The developers are currently in a closed beta of the "Black Swan Edition" of Voice Central, which would be a web-app version. If their web site is to be believed, then the Black Swan Edition will work "just like a native iPhone application." If this is the case, and other developers follow suit, the app landscape could change.
If you were a developer, which path would you take – stick with the App Store, or develop a web app instead? There are pros and cons of each. Going it alone would allow you to produce your app with less hassle, quicker updates, and a larger cut of any sales. On the flip side, independently released apps almost certainly will get less publicity, and, as a result, fewer sales. In addition, some users simply may prefer native apps.
Regardless of what happens, times are changing, and I welcome the changes. If nothing else, it will give users more choice.
What do you think of these changes? What path would you take as a developer?