The conventional wisdom is that the "mobile Internet" and rich "web apps" (HTML5) will eventually win over native apps for mobile devices. This has long been Google's position, as well as the favored stance of many in the tech industry. But that logic may not play out as anticipated. My view is that the mobile Web, so-called Web apps and native apps will instead co-exist at least for the near-to-medium term.
Beyond this, in the hierarchy of content on mobile devices, apps may continue to be the favored way that users (consumers, enterprises) access mobile content. A recent survey from IBM of 2,000 IT professionals and developers sees mobile as the leading development platform going forward. The other major trend identified and explored in the survey was cloud computing.
According to the IBM survey:
The majority (55 percent) of survey respondents see mobile application development for devices such as iPhone and Android, and even tablet PCs like iPad and PlayBook, surpassing application development on other platforms over the next five years.
"Do you see mobile application development surpassing application development on other platforms over the next five years?"
Source: IBM, 9/10 n=2,000
The survey didn't ask about mobile Web, vs. Web apps vs. native apps. It was about mobile application development vs. other platforms (PC). But the interest in mobile applications and the bullish nature of the responses suggest that developers will keep building apps, which indirectly means that consumers will keep using them.
While app discovery has become a major problem for developers and brands, mobile applications offer a generally better experience than the pure mobile Web. That fact plus the continuing growth of apps will power consumer usage for the next several years at least.