Jon Mooney

The Rich Experience of Mobile Web Will Kill Apps

In recent years marketers have gravitated towards developing mobile apps over developing a single mobile website. Their rationale was that apps deliver a far richer experience than mobile web, but as 2011 starts it's time to also put that myth to bed as it's simply no longer the case.

In fact mobile websites are simpler and cheaper and they allow you to build a very rich desktop type experience for the plethora of new mobile devices available on the market now including an extensive range of smartphones and tablets on various platforms and from a range of device manufacturers.

According to Research in Motion's Co-CEO Jim Balsillie, at the recent Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, the focus on apps on mobile devices is something of a fad and he says that Apple's mobile app development model is totally flawed. He said: "We believe in the Web, but you should be able to publish with the tools you already use. You don't need an app for the Web!"

RIM recently announced the company's new tablet, the PlayBook, which will be released early in 2011. This new tablet will use an OS created by the recently acquired QNX called the BlackBerry Tablet OS, which will offer full OpenGL and POSIX support alongside web standards such as HTML5.

Dozens of other manufacturers including Samsung, Huawei, HP and Lenovo are currently working on or have just released Android-based tablets, in the hope of taking over Apple's current dominant position with the iPad. It seems that raw JavaScript performance is better on the Android tablets.

RIM has also touted the PlayBook's ability to handle Flash content via Flash 10.1. The iPad has been widely criticised for not supporting Adobe's Flash technology due to Apple's belief that the technology is soon to be obsolete. Flash is used across the Web for everything from streaming video to casual games, but it is slowly being phased out by HTML5, the next major revision of the HTML standard used in the creation of Web pages currently under development.

Due to some great advances in mobile web development technology, marketers can now have a fully functional mobile web site, which can give the rich look and feel of an app. HTML5 in particular holds great promise and will certainly be a driver in creating app like feel and functionality for mobile web.

HTML5 has stepped back to see what the future needs to be for a web programming model. It has had to address some of the key gaps between native hardware, APIs (Application Programming Interface) and web. It has a specification that allows you to operate in an online, offline, or disconnected mode. It now has a rendering model, beyond what you'd normally see on your PC that actually provides a high-end graphics type capability and 2D or even 3D capabilities.

HTML5 has now gone beyond what you're used to seeing on your desktop and has taken advantage of some of the sensors that these mobile devices now have - accelerometers, location capability or geolocation. APIs are now emerging as a companion to HTML5, which is a spec that will span across your desktop to your mobile device.

So have mobile apps reached their tipping point and are consumers getting tired of wasting time, money and download limits downloading and installing them and are increasingly going direct to mobile websites that give them an equally rich experience? And will the smart marketers take note of this new usage pattern and start to divert their limited budgets to mobile web instead of throwing it at proprietary apps?   

However, marketers that adopt the fundamentally flawed apps only mobile strategy are missing a trick and my advice is that it is far smarter for brands to build a mobile strategy with mobile web at the heart of it with mobile apps on top.


COMMENTS

Posted by jack, 20 January 2011

Interesting, BUT I would say that another arguement may state that the mobile site is increasingly not needed these days? If I want facebook, linkedIn, Wikipedia, Google etc I go to that icon. If on the other hand I need specific information on a company I normally look at that website through my ipad or laptop. The internet icon is now just another icon on my iPhone desktop, it’s like a parallel universe. If I like you are on my iphone desktop, if I don’t you are invisible. Will a great mobile site change this?


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Jon Mooney MIA International Jon Mooney
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Jon has 14 years experience working in the mobile arena. He has a strong command of both the business and technical issues in developing and managing innovative mobile products and services. Before joining MIA this involved developing and managing content services at Telstra in Australia Read Jon's full bio

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