I recently received a white paper from , a Belgium-based business development and project manager with 25 years experience in software development for businesses. His paper provides an interesting perspective concerning mobile versus web apps.

I’ve written at length about this subject many times and I’ve been keenly interested in apps and frameworks that streamline enterprise app development. FileMaker Go is an example of a balance between rapid native app development without the headaches of XCode and all that comes with single-platform solutions.

André’s perspective is purely based on web services; CSS3 and HTML5 and I applaud any team that doesn’t rule this avenue out and considers this approach with some degree of open-mindedness. I’ve often repeated a quote (not sure of its origin by the way) -

With few exceptions, most native apps could be written as web apps and provide a relatively similar experience.

It’s clear in André’s paper that he shares a similar fondness for web-based business apps and even though he is a self-described non-technical “developer”, he was able to research and suss out the key concepts necessary to build effective web-based user interfaces for iPad, and all iOS devices for that matter.

The chart below reviews some of the pro’s and con’s of Web versus Native apps. This is not intended to be comprehensive – just some of the high points. You can also find a more comprehensive discussion about these attributes in the downloadable resource Mobile Apps: Native or Web?


While this list of pros and cons serve as a useful starting point for determining a sound app strategy for business apps, it doesn’t factor in the future of CSS3 and HTML5 or the rapid adoption and expanding skills that are emerging in the mobile app development community. As such, André’s viewpoint on this topic is simply an early glimpse of a very likely shift toward web-based apps.

Critics of HTML5 and CSS3 [today] cite the fact that both of these standards are incomplete and likely to change over time. André makes a very good argument for pushing on with web apps right now.

Why even look at standards that are still in draft stage, one might ask. Because of Webkit. Webkit is the rendering software inside Safari. Apple keeps Webkit in ʻopen sourceʼ. Other users are Google Chrome and the Android browser (as well the browser in Nokia S60 phones). Webkit is being pushed aggressively by Apple towards full HTML5/CSS3 support: there are even ʻnightly buildsʼ available on Internet for developers liking to live dangerously. Each Safari release contains the latest stable version of Webkit. The risk for Apple is that some features done now may be different or absent in the released standard. The benefit for us that we can use most of HTML5 and CSS3 today.

In his paper, André also points out very clearly that it’s a collection of key technical concepts that provide a clear path to easy-to-develop and maintain mobile device presentations of business data.

When used together, these attributes transform a web site into a web app. The user will see an icon on the screen that will open an application. There is no difference to a full- blown app and nobody can see this app is actually driven by web standards and run by Safari.

The key concepts are:

  • CSS3 media queries
  • CSS 3D transformations (example)
  • HTML manifest attribute
  • Client side database (SQLLite)
  • Full-screen extensions