The App Internet: What It Means For Development Professionals


My colleague John McCarthy just published an excellent report sizing the "app Internet," a phenomenon Forrester defines as "specialized local apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services" across smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Forrester estimates that the revenue from paid applications on smartphones and tablets was $2.2 billion worldwide for 2010 with a CAGR of 82% through 2015. We're witnessing the rebirth of the rich client in real time, on the mobile device instead of the laptop or desktop. Developing applications using native application technologies like Objective-C, Java, or Silverlight is clearly how the majority of developers are reaching these mobile platforms today (see figure).

But will it be the same story in 2015? I already see signs of a sequel to the app Internet brewing, where “The Web Strikes Back” because of growing challenges with cost-effective development for the app Internet. The developers at 37signals recently articulated some of these challenges and their decision to eschew native application development for a mobile-optimized web-based solution using HTML 5 and JavaScript. They aren't the only ones taking that route.

As a development shop, you need to keep your options open and understand the costs involved with going native, using mobile middleware, or investing in a web-based approach. In the end, you’re probably going to use a combination of one or more approaches based on how quickly you need to get into market, what your performance demands are, how many mobile platforms you need to support, and whether you need offline capability for your applications. You'll also need to start thinking about your testing, security, and device management strategies, as well as which screens you put first – mobile phones or tablets.

Regardless of your eventual mix of native and web technologies, the client as we know it has changed forever. You need to adjust your skill mix, your budgets, and your development culture to adapt to the next big architectural change in how we build systems. Many of your peers (and competitors) are discussing these issues with us today. We'd love to help you define your mobile development strategy too. 




A hybrid approach

Mr. Hammond,

When you are discussing with your clients the best decision or mix between native apps and mobile browser solutions, please be alert to the Formotus alternative. Our native app is a single client that enables multiple custom business forms to be pushed to the device from the cloud. The performance is native, with all its advantages, and the custom form design requires no coding and works across platforms.

You can try out Forms Central in the App Store and Android Market, and read about it here:


HTML5 ready for prime time

I think you're right on the money that 37signals aren't the only ones taking the HTML5/JavaScript route. As Compuware's Paul Czarnik notes in a recent blog post (, "HTML5 is here. Not next year. Not two years out. NOW." Aside from potentially easing the angst over Flash or no Flash, HTML5 purportedly lets you build an app that with the richness and features of a native device application without having to build it for every device you want to support. Why wouldn't that be your starting point for a mobile-optimized, web-based solution?


People ripping off your Apps

Hi I have just seen your post on apps and would like to add that I started developing small business apps for the iPhone. When you join the app developer program to agree to the statement that you will not simarly name, reverse engineer an existing application.
No sooner than I had released apps into a niche market place, people from UK copied and produced similarly named apps that peform exactly the same function and at a cheaper price. When you complain to apple they simple pass on you grievance to the other party, who just ignore it. Apple will not intervene. So prospective app developers need to be made aware of this growing trend.

HTML5 performance?

Interesting recent blog post by Lorenz Jakober at Gomex ( that suggests that HTML5 lets you write apps that rival the performance of native and desktop apps. Anyone yet have or know of experience that demonstrates or refutes this?


The Internet applications

The Internet applications mean everything to develop a business. For instance, my company wants to purchase App Logic support to keep up with the new technology on the market. More than that, with the help of these Internet apps you gain time and money.