TiPb's joked before that Apple may well consider "sweet" WebApps the alternative for developers who want to release iPhone apps outside the App Store and its "gatekeeper" model, but others are starting to take that line of thinking seriously.
Peter-Paul Koch of QuirksBlog thinks so. In a post provocatively titled Apple is not evil. iPhone developers are stupid., Koch states:
In order to release an iPhone application without having to submit it to Apple’s insane App Store process, developers could just use Web technologies and create Web apps instead of native apps.
He believes iPhone Safari is a great mobile browser with excellent support even for hardware-accelerated 3D animation via CSS, and that most of his frequently used iPhone apps could be re-released as WebApps right now
Daring Fireball's John Gruber begs to differ, however:
The argument that you can make iPhone web apps that are “good enough” misses the entire point of iPhone apps — the entire point of the iPhone itself, even — all of the things that drive Twitter users to pay $3, $4, or $5 for apps that do the same things that can be done for free by loading Twitter’s web site in MobileSafari. “Good enough” is not good enough on the iPhone.
His best proof is that Apple itself is writing native apps, not WebApps, and that part of the power of the iPhone platform isn't just the hardware and interface, but the Cocoa Touch frameworks Apple has provided developers as part of the iPhone SDK, and that's a point well taken -- and all too often overlooked.
There's no arguing, however, that for apps that aren't allowed into the App Store, like Google Voice, or for developers philosophically opposed to the App Store in general, like Joe Hewitt of Facebook, WebApps are an interesting alternatives -- that by the way have a high likelihood of running on Google Android, Palm webOS, and upcoming BlackBerry WebKit-based browsers as well.