From a development standpoint, there’s huge benefit to developing applications in for HTML – if simply because the barrier to entry is much lower than other development platforms.
In addition, there’s no vendor behind HTML. In front of – yes. Behind – No. This means a website written a decade ago still loads in today’s browsers on today’s hardware. The same isn’t true of stack of desktop apps from the same time period.
From a maintenance standpoint – a developer today could crack open yesterday’s HTML page and figure out what’s going on. Or more importantly – vice versa.
Until fairly recently, browsers were limited to general use computer (desktops, laptops, handhelds). Now, TiVo, XBox, Playstation, any device with any kind of network connection has a browser.
Each one of those devices is a different context, each still has it’s own unique capabilities. Why wouldn’t I want a readable – if not writable – calendar, mail client, etc on each of them?
The differences between Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari are irrelevant once we start talking about having a productive, cohesive experience across all the devices I touch during the day.
Yes, this my sound like a 180° from my earlier positions. But it’s more of a clarification.
HTML as a presentation layer holds the promise of easy, write once, run everywhere development. Desktop applications with HTML at their core are very compelling from a number of angles (maintenance, development) but they’re still Desktop apps. That means they’re expected to be keyboard controllable, accessible offline, and dare I say – integrate with other Desktop applications in addition to the cloud.