Programs that run full-fledged capabilities, including those that run on specific hardware, such as Apple’s or tablet devices, have the edge now over web-based apps. So-called native apps (aka platform apps) can be visually rich and lively. Now, as the newest generation of the code for designing Web pages, called HTML5 (HyperText Markup Language, 5th generation), spreads and browsers upgrade to take advantage of it, the functionality-and-appearance gap will narrow.
The in-houser of tomorrow – well, in the next few years – may find a raft of very specialized apps released by law firms, legal publishers, law schools or consultants that bring pinpoint information to their mobile devices. At some point, tech-savvy law departments might swap or sell apps they develop. Apps will show off intellectual capital, market the provider, collect and distribute useful data, and cement relationships.
The wide reach of the Web and its agnosticism as to devices and operating systems will enable HTML5 apps, as they compete more equally with native apps, to fill all kinds of gaps in what is available for law departments.
Not wanting to be a credulous dreamer, still I sense the inexorable spread of apps: their precision, low-cost infrastructure, speed of evolution, gathering strength, fit with cloud computing, and cultural familiarity all augur well for collections of apps coming soon to a law department near you.