Should developers opt to code for Web or native apps? (Part 1)

Diem Do

Ever since Apple created the iOS ecosystem, countless developers moved to focus their energies on the mobile world. As a result, more and more content is being consumed and more apps are being used as routine parts of people’s daily lives. It seems mobile is dominant in every way.


However, according to Web analytics company StatCounter, mobile browser usage hit only 20% at the end of 2013, and personal computers accounted for the remaining 80%. Then again, according to comScore, for the first time starting in January 2014, more Americans use apps (46.1%) to access Internet data than they do from a desktop computer (45.1%). Such data only further fuels the now age-old argument: Should developers focus on Web or native applications?


Image courtesy of Savvycom


Despite the conundrum, developers often pick sides: They stick to just Web or just native. It’s obvious that when users are on a desktop, they will tend to use their desktop browser to access their favorite applications. On mobile, users prefer dedicated apps for popular websites over mobile browsers.


But, consider that Microsoft and Apple appear to be retooling their desktop operating systems (Windows and Mac OS X, respectively) to be more mobile platforms than desktop platforms. So, for some developers, the answer is not so clear-cut. To some, it seems more difficult than ever to decide whether to develop a Web or native application.


There are obvious considerations to help make the decision, such as the number of your potential users on one versus the other. Another factor that helps sway a decision is the development time and maintenance time. Developers also have to come to grips with any new technologies on one platform versus another.


Regardless of all this, developers that pick sides are wrong. We must still develop for web and native applications. Let’s explore…


The IT space


Cloud computing and mobile platforms have totally changed the way IT deals with organizational and personal information. We no longer save and sync data just to a local hard disk. We need it on the go. This is why we’ve seen the emergence of DropBox, iCloud, Google Drive, OneDrive and other vendors to provide data backup and synchronization services.


Another big consideration for IT is the evolution of browsers. Today, browser technologies such as HTML5 enable asynchronous data transmission (WebSocket), WebGL (GPU acceleration), embedded documents display (PDF), and peripheral access (scanners, webcams, etc.). Browsers have come such a long way. They now play strategic and significant daily roles in organizations, well beyond basic Web browsing. When you combine speedy broadband with such powerful browser technology, truly heavy work can be done in the cloud.


Evidence of this change in browser capabilities is everywhere. Microsoft provides Office 365, Google has Docs, and Apple has iWorks. These are all deployed on the server-side. They promise low cost in document management and processing to attract users.


Google’s Chrome OS is primarily designed to work with Web applications. Chrome OS has brought clear benefits to developers. They know to write applications in HTML5, JavaScript and CSS without hesitation. HTML5 technology has the potential to let a browser handle applications seemingly as powerful as native applications on desktop platforms.


Part 2

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