The truth is Google doesn't really like apps, not just because Apple promotes them as an alternative to search but because they fragment the mobile world. Google is all about scale and scalability across (mobile) platforms. Thus the company is pushing for a future in which HTML5 overcomes that fragmentation and helps make mobile websites look and operate more like apps.
People continue to debate the "apps vs. mobile Web" question. The answer is that both will co-exist -- and the mix of apps vs. mobile will be different on different platforms. However "web apps" have emerged as a third category in the mix. There is nothing especially new here. But in certain cases these Web apps are getting better and better, and very close to native apps in their functionality.
The new GMail for the iPad is an example of that -- improved usability for composing messages. It's a small change, but useful and it makes the GMail site on the iPad much more like using GMail through the iPad's mail app.
We'll see these three content categories co-exist into the future: apps, traditional PC Internet sites, which don't really work on mobile but work well on the iPad, and "Web apps."