At the Google I/O Developer's conference today, the message has been clear: programming for the Web is the way to go. Sure, native apps are still important but the future is on the Web.
To drive home that point, consider the popularity - as well as the limitations - of netbooks. The miniature notebook computers have compromised on hardware, such as smaller hard drives, to keep prices low. But that doesn't necessarily mean that performance has to be compromised.
Google says the power is in the Web browser, the one app in a netbook where most users will spend the majority of their time. And Google, of course, benefits economically when more users tap into the Web. The more users turn to the Web, the more they'll interact with Google - whether through search or other apps - and advertisers using tools like AdSense to reach that growing audience.
Still, the browser's influence and presence can't be diminished - especially as Web connectivity continues to grow in the mobile space. On a mobile device, the Web has grown - in connectivity, user experience, functionality and more. Why would anyone want native apps when the Web experience is gaining ground?
With that said, we can't ignore the 800-pound gorilla in the room: Apple's closed-wall App store. Those aren't Web-based apps; they're native to the devices. And that seems to run counter to what Google is talking about, right? The short answer: yes and no.
It's true that iPhone apps are native. But Vic Gundrota, Google's VP of Engineering, was quick to point to the brilliant minds at Apple, which were proactive enough to allow Web apps to be saved on the home pages of the iPhone, making them appear to be apps on the device. Gmail, for example, was not written as an iPhone app but rather as a Web app for the iPhone, one that uses HTML 5 to offer an app-like experience to the user. But the shortcut to the Web-based app appears will lead the user directly to that Web page. The bottom line: the two can co-exist, Google says.
The beauty of all of this, of course, is that users gain when companies like Google make new innovative tools available to developers who are encouraged to tap into their imaginations and push the limits of what can be done.