From the horse’s mouth
Intelity (software developer of these apps)
An increasing number of hotels are providing guests with an iPad or similar “mobile-platform” tablet in your room for you to use. These typically are running a custom-designed app that works as an information source for the guest and, in some cases, provides self-service access to a wide range of services like in-room dining, housekeeping requests and check-out.
These devices are the same hardware as the iPad that you have, and this customer-service software is most likely to be available at the iTunes App Store for your iOS device or Google Play for your Android device. In some cases, the software may also be finished as an HTML5 Web app for use on laptops running the latest Web browser or on mobile devices that don’t have a native version written for them.
By you running this kind of customer-facing software on your device, you have access to the same benefits as you would have on the device that is located at the property. This can benefit you if you end up being enamoured by the hotel you are staying at and can allow you to take it further. For example, you could use the “local knowledge” functionality when you are out and about or even to plan your visit to the same town again; or refer to “in-room dining” menus for suggesting menu options that you have liked.
These kind of customer-facing apps can benefit customers who want to take the experience with your product or service further. This is in a similar way to the concept of the “app-cessory” where there are mobile-platform apps that enhance the functionality of a device or provide an improved user interface for the device or the apps that extend sports events or TV shows by adding value to them.
What I would like to see of these apps is that developers write native apps for the common mobile platforms while writing Web apps for use with unsupported platforms.