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Apple is the new Microsoft. Evil. At least when it comes to iPhone apps and the App Store. From delays to questionable rejections, there are plenty of reasons some developers get mad if you mutter the words 'App Store'.
So it's not surprising that some are suggesting we're starting to see (or will be seeing) a 'trend' of developers who are moving away from native apps that are distributed through the App Store and are instead building web applications that can be accessed freely through the iPhone's web browser.
Let's put this to rest: developers aren't ditching the App Store in droves, and they're not going to. Here are five reasons why.
- Web apps didn't fly before. Early on, Apple bet on web apps. And it didn't pay off. Sure, you can make the 'HTML5 changes everything argument' but the early failure of web apps on the iPhone wasn't about technology. It was about experience. The results speak for themselves: consumers clearly prefer native apps, as well as the convenience of having a single store in which they can be found and purchased.
- Web apps are harder to distribute. One of the reasons web apps flopped is that marketing a web app is like marketing a website. If you build it they will not come. The App Store offers developers an established and efficient distribution channel of large size. The only distribution channel that many iPhone owners know about, and a channel that most of them seem satisfied with. Getting into the App Store requires approval, which, once obtained, makes an app 'official'. Developers who don't have Apple's explicit blessing will always have to actively promote their availability to consumers and fight the consumer perception that they're competing in an inferior market.
- The App Store comes with built-in monetization. Want to charge for your app? Apple takes care of that. Want to sell in-app content or subscriptions? Apple takes care of that too. These things are really important since most serious developers are actually looking to make money. Apple's advantage, however, is not simply that it handles payments. That's the easy part. The real advantage: consumers trust Apple and that means apps available in the App Store are far more likely to sell than apps sold on a standalone, pay-for-access basis.
- Web apps can't access the iPhone hardware and APIs. Can HTML5, for instance, be used to build slick web apps for the iPhone? Sure. But what about hardware access? What about the 3D libraries available through the iPhone APIs? In short, there are plenty of important things you can't do with web apps.
- Developers chase success. While the number of developers who have hit the jackpot in the App Store is pretty small, such developers do exist, and the ranks of the App Store millionaires are always growing. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's wise to join in on the App Store gold rush but so long as the App Store maintains its image as one of the best places for developers to strike it rich, the majority of developers will keep developing native apps for the iPhone.
In short, the App Store is sort of like a trendy nightclub. If you're not able to get in, you might resort to a Saturday night at the local dive bar. But deep down, you know that you'd have a much better time at the nightclub, even if the bouncer is a jerk.
Photo credit: Kaloozer via Flickr.