I really believe this is the future of the magazine publication industry. While the app is still a little rough around the edges (“iPad/tablet support coming soon”) Fortune is really skating to where the puck is going to be in the next few years. Clearly Apple isn’t going to be the only digital ecosystem on earth. Whether the others are Android, Windows, Palm, Blackberry or something else, it isn’t feasible to develop apps for all platforms and keep them updated separately. The web is the one future platform (and there is no better browser than Apple’s Mobile Safari).
Separately, managing apps on different Apple devices is even less of a chore with a Web App. If you get a new iOS device or need to use someone else’s device, you don’t have to go through the App Store gauntlet to install or use a web app. Speaking of that, every time Fortune wants to push an update, they just do it rather than submitting to various app stores and waiting for approval.
The obvious downside is that offline access isn’t guaranteed. You need an Internet connection to use the app. However, with offline caching DB technologies (which is already being used) improving and wireless connectivity bordering on ubiquity, that barrier is diminishing.
Another Time Inc. publication, SportsIllustrated, demonstrated their magazine as a web app last year and ‘illustrated’ what can be done in HTML5:
It is becoming clear that the publications with smart leadership are building their new digital in HTML5. The long term advantages are simply too numerous to ignore.