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Some years ago, I wrote a piece at Brighthand titled Apple Made a Mistake. My declaration was simple: Apple backtracked on their initial proclamation that applications on the iPhone (now iOS) would be web-based. When Jobs announced that there would be native apps made for the platform, it was applauded by all but me. And now, especially with the introductions of the Financial Times,Amazon Kindle, and several other web apps, it would seem that Apple might either be moving folks towards that route, or finally seeing the fruit of that decision. I’m not sure that this will work out well for either 3rd party devs or Apple in the long run. But, I am pretty certain that Apple is creating a situation where their involvement with Webkit is going to present more problems than benefits for them.

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2 thoughts on “Revisiting Apple’s Mistake

  1. From what I understand, it was Apple’s initial intention that all 3rd party apps for the iPhone be web apps. But developers wanted native apps, and once jailbroken iPhones allowed native 3rd party apps, Apple had little choice to comply or see a large percentage of their customers consider jail breaking their phones.

    But that doesn’t negate the fact that web apps have ALWAYS been an option. Web apps are especially helpful for apps that will never meet Apple’s strict policies for what can and cannot be included in their app store.

    I installed the new Kindle web app yesterday (even though I have the native app, too) on my iPad. It’s not as full featured, but I’m sure features will be added. What really intrigued me was the fact that the Kindle web app asked my permission to claim 50 MB of memory on my iPad. Thus, I can download books and even read them offline in the web app, which is pretty amazing if you think about the nature of a web-based app.

    I really don’t believe that Apple is going to move away from native apps, though. It’s become a bit of an easy cash cow, so I doubt Apple will start pushing web apps as they initially did. Developers will have to weigh the pros and cons of which scenario is better, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see more of these web apps come along.

  2. Always an option, not the first option taken until recently for certain publishers of content.

    Remember, Apple is also one of the leading contributors to the Webkit engine used in the Safari Mobile browser. If they decided that web apps ate too much into their ability to control the iOS experience, then I could see them changing their approach or support there. I am not sure that they want to pull an MS and tie Webkit to iOS, but I am sure that they won’t keep both options forever to developers and content producers.

    Personally, I don’t think they should have come out with native apps. They could have been a bigger disruption to computing without going native. What they didn’t have then, which it seems they have now with iCloud, is some better handling of the needs for data to simply exist without save/sync/online/offline layers. That is their goal. Getting there, and reinventing the expectations for computing, is what is happening nowadays.

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