Nearly every web application that interacts with a user is faced with the dilemma of how to best support tablets and mobile devices. As entrepreneurs we can no longer put off supporting these platforms as a nice to have. The demand that is created by iPad users and the influx of Android tablets in the marketplace is significant especially for early stage companies. Zoomstra is no different and we are currently facing our biggest technology decision yet. What is our best option for supporting tablets?
As a bootstrapped startup we have to make smart decisions on where we spend our time and money on development efforts. We don’t have a big pot of sweet smelling VC cash to dip into for these projects. But this is good. It makes us think hard and invest in only those areas that will drive revenue and keep our customers happy month after month.
Our challenge at the moment is how to best support the Zoomstra Workbook reader across iPads and Android tablets. Should we invest in an iOS native application as well as a Android application or should we use an HTML5 mobile framework like Sencha to build it once and deploy it across multiple devices. Each of these choices have significant pros and cons.
Investing in an iOS native application for the iPad seems like a risky proposition. There is the hurdle of gaining acceptance from Apple to just get the product into the AppStore. And then once the app is in the AppStore, there are the issues associated with in-app purchases and content policing that may cause some headaches for our business model. The alternative is to use an HTML5 web-app that is optimized for each platform that can take advantage of some of the device specific features.
We’ve been watching the Amazon Kindle Cloud Reader as an example of an application that uses an HTML5 web app to avoid the challenges of the AppStore and other marketplaces. With the HTML5 application any browser that is capable of running that code is a supported platform. This is rather attractive because we could build it once and support a wide variety of devices. The downside is that our application wouldn’t be part of the “Apple AppStore” family. Is that good or bad, we don’t really know. We aren’t going to sell our Zoomstra Workbook Reader, it’s an enabling technology for all of our customers. So maybe that is reason enough not to participate in the AppStore.
What do you think? Has your company gone down either path? If so, do you have suggestions or recommendations? Are there pieces to the puzzle I haven’t considered? I’d like to hear from you. Please post comments with your experience to this blog post or tweet @zoomstra with your comments.