Certain companies aren't too keen on cross-platform mobile apps, and that puts developers in a bind. Should they pour time and resources into one form of development? Should they hedge their bets on a single platform?
How does HTML5 factor in?
Jonathan Stark: I don't think web designers and developers need to get their heads around the entire HTML5 spec in order to get started. I recommend cherry picking the features you need and getting your hands dirty.
The HTML5 features I use most are client-side data storage and the offline application cache. Together, these features allow you to create fairly full-featured mobile apps that can run completely offline without any sort of Internet connection.
Do native app development skills carry over to web apps?
The barrier to entry with web apps is pretty low. I get a lot of email from readers of my iPhone book, many of whom are completely new to mobile development. In spite of this, many have hacked together apps that are fun or useful.
I'm a firm believer in the democratization of the tools of creation. The more people building apps, the better. To me, app development is like making music -- it's a creative endeavor that everyone should be able to try if they want to. Imagine what music would be like if everyone had to pass some test or pay someone for permission to play guitar. Would we have the Beatles? Hendrix? Lady Gaga? (Just kidding.)
Some people claim native apps "feel" different than web apps. Is that the case?
Jonathan Stark: If you're talking specifically about iPhone, an app written with Objective-C will run a little bit smoother and faster than that same app written with HTML. I do think that the gap is going to decrease as the iPhone hardware gets better and HTML authoring tools and libraries get better.
I sometimes hear people -- usually pundits, not developers -- dismissing HTML apps for reasons that seem minor to me. "Scroll friction," for example. If HTML apps were crash-prone or sluggish, I'd be dismissing HTML right along with them. But that is not the case. We're talking about cosmetics here, not usability. It seems bizarre to me that someone would lock themselves into a single platform for something so inconsequential.
The bottom line for me is that if an app actually does something useful, I doubt users are going to care about minor cosmetic differences.
Will a web app marketplace open up?
If you're talking about developers skipping the platform-specific app stores and distributing their apps online via URL, there are two issues commonly raised: discoverability and payment.
I think discoverability is a red herring. We're at something like 200,000 apps in iTunes. If you want your app to sell, you're going to have to market it whether it's in the App Store or not.
Regarding payment, e-commerce has been around for more than a decade. Nothing is preventing web developers from rolling their own payment systems, or integrating an existing third-party system like Chargify, Spreedly, or CheddarGetter. Sure it's more work, but you don't have to give up 30 percent of your profits, either.
Do web apps allow for cross-platform development that doesn't run afoul of Apple's licensing agreement?
This interview was condensed and edited.