iJustine's videos on the mobile version of YouTube running on an iPhone 4
Without a doubt one of the best results of the feud between Microsoft and Google is the migration towards web-based apps by the search giant. Two things Google will continue to do to take the wind out of Apple's sails are to provide applications and services which give Android an advantage over the iPhone and migrate applications to the cloud. The reason for the cloud migration has to do with proving you can do everything you need to in a hosted data center and that local apps are a legacy nuisance.
This is confirmed by reports of the religious debate brewing at Google which pits the cloud against desktop apps. Google like Salesforce.com is really becoming a symbol of cloud-based software so I can't see them increasingly embracing the desktop any time soon.
It is indeed silly to have to keep purchasing apps on a phone since it is a device of limited size and subsequently limited memory. Sure Apple and others have done an incredible job packing these wireless gadgets with gigs of the stuff - but it makes little sense to limit the applications you can run because you eventually run out of memory. This is especially true in Apple's world where you have to decide how much memory you need in the future before you purchase your device and you aren't able to increase the amount later.
To help minimize the impact of such decisions, YouTube has dramatically improved the mobile version of its site at m.youtube.com and the new site actually displays video with a higher quality level than the YouTube app native to Apple's phones.
Still, in order for all cloud-based mobile apps to be as good as local ones you need gobs of bandwidth as well as concessions from the operating system so you can do the things you need to do locally to ensure a smooth experience. For example, how will YouTube display preroll advertising with a web-based app? It is unclear if this is even possible. Moreover, how about overlaying ads as messages on top of videos - can this be done easily in the cloud? Perhaps.
YouTube's video showcasing their new mobile app
I spent some time looking at the AV Foundation Framework Reference which is part of the iPhone OS developer library and there is a great deal of video functionality here. The question is will HTML5 be able to unlock all the features needed to duplicate a dedicated piece of software. In Google's case the new HTML5 player may be great from the perspective of making the correct long-term bet but what about short-term revenue hits because you can't display ads the way users want them?
We are still early in the cloud versus application days and it is unclear if HTML5 will be a worthy replacement to Flash or perhaps just an adjunct. In the mean time the war between Apple and Google will rage on and each company will look to espouse the benefits of their angle by investing in their different approaches and fine-tuning them so they are superior to the competition. As usual in such conflicts (but certainly not in the case of Apple vs. Adobe Flash), customers are the winners.