Web vs Native and the Enterprise

motodevforenterprise.pngMotorola MOTODEV have an interesting Webinar for enterprises considering native vs web apps. The discussion is high level and is therefore probably aimed at managers rather than developers and provides a great introduction to the issues that affect the choice of a native, web or hybrid approach. The MOTODEV Enterprise blog goes on to describe a few of the more popular web frameworks.

Today, there’s also a great new (iOS and Android) based app magazine called Appliness. It explores more developer-related issues such as use of actual Javascript libraries such as BackBone and jQuery, use of containers such as PhoneGap and tips such as how to debug Javascript. The magazine is actually excellent. However, digging deeper, I suspect there’s an ulterior motive behind this seemingly independent magazine.

If you look at the whois for the appliness domain it’s owned by Adobe France. Many, but not all, of the authors are from Adobe. In order to read the magazine on Android you need to have the Adobe AIR runtime. The magazine is also way of getting the runtime on developer devices and introducing them to the what’s possible with Adobe tools. In fact, on his blog, Michaël Chaize, Adobe Flash Platform Evangelist says the magazine is a new innovative way for Adobe to communicate with developers. Perhaps the Appliness web site should be branded a bit more clearly?

Anyway, as it happens the Adobe magazine app itself demonstrates what’s wrong with many cross platform and/or html approaches. The content is very one dimensional and might as well be on a web site. There’s no use of phone features. You can’t even tap on links (which is possible with html apps). The UI paradign is very iOS-centric. On Android you tap on the screen and the top and bottom bars appear as in iOS apps. The menus don’t use either the old Android Menu mechanism nor the newer Action Bar. There’s absolutely no Android look and feel. Does this matter?

It all depends on the project. I have been in IT a long time and even before mobile took off, I saw and used many enterprise apps that often never had the look and feel of the operating system currently being used. I used key enterprise apps that utilised DOS boxes in Windows, reporting tools with their own UI and SAP and Oracle CRM-type apps with their own UI quirks. The enterprise has a rich history of employees having to use proprietary (or lower level) UIs. It’s probably no different in mobile. However, if you are creating an app for end-consumers then you might like to think more deeply about the user experience.