Apparently, mobile users prefer apps over the web. At least that’s Gowalla CEO Josh Williams’ view:
“People love apps, but it drives a stake in the heart of the build-once-deploy-everywhere model, and makes the market really fragmented.”
I’m not surprised. Heck, I prefer apps too. But the irony is that Apple has but a bullet in the one solution that lets you have apps and a build-once-deploy-everywhere model: Flash/Flex.
Sure, Apple wants apps not rich browser experiences. They’re trying to control developer mindshare before more open solutions get going with too much momentum, once more leaving them to their walled garden as happened in the PC versus Mac race. There is only so much developer mindshare, and if you lock them down writing apps in dev tools that essentially only work on the iPhone or iPad, its hard for their great apps to be available elsewhere.
We don’t hear tremendous talk about RIA’s (Rich Internet Apps) anymore, it seems. Perhaps the concept is dated. I continue to think it is a great idea. People talk about Flash/Flex largely in terms of video and ignore the RIA side. Some argue they don’t even like RIA’s, and prefer a basic web page-style UI. Personally, I think the web page UI is fine for certain things, but it isn’t much better than the old 3270 green screens, which were also fine for some things. The problem isn’t that apps need to be more like web pages, its that browsers need to support more app-like behavior. Flash/Flex does that today beautifully, except Steve Jobs won’t tolerate it on his mobile platforms because he’s trying to deny developer mindshare to his competitors.
For those that think it’s slow and buggy, think again. It’s actually capable of some pretty amazing stuff, even 3D games. I’ve lately been spending a fair amount of time programming 3D graphics in an Open Source Flash package called Away3D and have been very impressed. I’ve also spent a lot of time with Adobe AIR, and am likewise impressed. Not only can you run on any browser, you can run disconnected on the desktop too. It works great on PC, Mac, and Linux, same code across all desktops and browsers.
I haven’t seen another option that gives so much flexibility. HTML5 is a long long way from it.