Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm.

HTML5 websites should complement apps, not aim to replace them

Kobo, the e-book startup, is making some noise today about a new HTML5 website it’s building for people to buy and read e-books on iOS devices. The news peg is that Apple has stepped up enforcement of its in-app purchase rules. Now companies like Kobo and Amazon can’t sell e-books within their apps — or even hint at the fact that people can buy the books elsewhere — so they’re groping for new opportunities.

But Kobo’s press release touches on an important point:

Kobo’s HTML5 app will not replace the company’s existing apps, but extend its read-across-any-device strategy to reach a broader set of users and add additional value for their current customer base.

This is the right way that publishers should think about HTML5 websites and web apps.

They are fundamentally different than App Store apps: They’re discovered differently, developed differently, installed differently, updated differently, and can perform different functions on devices.

In Kobo’s case, the company will be able to include all the commerce it wants on its HTML5 website. But that site won’t get any of the benefits of being in the App Store, which include a huge audience, search presence, and possible promotion from Apple. And the HTML5 app won’t be able to use nearly as many functions of the iPhone or iPad as a native iOS app. Those are likely some of the reasons why Kobo is also keeping its iOS app, Apple’s new rules be damned.

As Kobo is suggesting, HTML5 websites and web apps can be good additions to a native app strategy, and may help extend features and presence to more platforms.

They’re complements to good native apps — not replacements.

Also: What’s on my iPhone?