I read with interest the recent announcement by AppMobi that they are producing a browser for Apple iOS and eventually Android that will go beyond the basic HTML5 capabilities.
- InfoWorld: “Have your HTML5 and native app too”
- Press Release: “MobiUs is Here; the World of Web Apps Will Never Be the Same”
Hybrid apps are not pure native and not pure web, but bridge the gap in between. There are several ways of doing hybrid. PhoneGap is a popular open source technology for building hybrid apps, but there are others as well. You get to have all the display capabilities of a browser with the functionality of the underlying device.
Hybrid apps are not for every application design, but can do very well if there is a lot of network interaction, not too much necessary graphic performance, and whatever UI design you can handle in a browser with widgets coming from Dojo, jQuery, Sencha, or similar technologies.
The idea of this new browser is to include the PhoneGap and other APIs so you can write enhanced HTML5 apps with more access to the underlying features.
Is this interesting? Yes.
Does it cause people to think through the implications of native vs. hybrid vs. web? Yes.
Will people rethink app stores and how you can collect and manage apps that run in a browser? Yes.
Will it speed up development of HTML5 and mainline browser support for additional device features? Maybe.
Will this be the browser we are all using in 2 years? I really doubt it.
The web became successful because browsers became standardized. In the early days we had different browser functionality as Microsoft Internet Explorer tried to set de facto standards and Netscape tried to use real ones. Eventually Firefox, Chrome, and Safari all supported web standards, more or less, and competed on speed and quality of rendering. IE eventually caught up though it is losing share as we speak.
So I applaud AppMobi’s attempt to push the envelope here on what can be done in a mobile browser, but I think the mainline mobile browsers will eventually set the standard for how HTML5 and agreed upon extensions work.
We don’t need certain apps to require particular browsers to work. Check out this story from 2005 where the US Federal Emergency Response Agency required people to use IE to apply for aid after Hurricane Katrina.
Also see: Ars Technica – “The end of an era: Internet Explorer drops below 50% of Web usage”