My colleague John McCarthy just published an excellent report sizing the "app Internet," a phenomenon Forrester defines as "specialized local apps running in conjunction with cloud-based services" across smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Forrester estimates that the revenue from paid applications on smartphones and tablets was $2.2 billion worldwide for 2010 with a CAGR of 82% through 2015. We're witnessing the rebirth of the rich client in real time, on the mobile device instead of the laptop or desktop. Developing applications using native application technologies like Objective-C, Java, or Silverlight is clearly how the majority of developers are reaching these mobile platforms today (see figure).
As a development shop, you need to keep your options open and understand the costs involved with going native, using mobile middleware, or investing in a web-based approach. In the end, you’re probably going to use a combination of one or more approaches based on how quickly you need to get into market, what your performance demands are, how many mobile platforms you need to support, and whether you need offline capability for your applications. You'll also need to start thinking about your testing, security, and device management strategies, as well as which screens you put first – mobile phones or tablets.
Regardless of your eventual mix of native and web technologies, the client as we know it has changed forever. You need to adjust your skill mix, your budgets, and your development culture to adapt to the next big architectural change in how we build systems. Many of your peers (and competitors) are discussing these issues with us today. We'd love to help you define your mobile development strategy too.