Will Mobile Apps Win The Day? It’s Looking That Way

August 26, 2010

Image courtesy of ZDNet

Google is working hard on the Chrome Web Store where, if promises are kept, will be an app store filled with amazing web/mobile applications – that’s applications that work in the browser on your computer and mobile device.  Google is planning to launch the Web Store this Fall and looks like they’ll be taking a mere 5% of the revenue from sales of apps (plus $5 just to keep out the crap). That’s right, developers get 95% of the take. After months of deliberating as to whether or not mobile apps will spell the end of native apps long-term I’m starting to be convinced.

My reasons:

1. YouTube proved it to me; showing that their HTML5 mobile web app performed better than the native iPhone app. Wow.

2. Google will make it easy to get apps that work across any smartphone with a browser (HTML5 supported)

3. The mobile web app market is larger than the native app market (i.e. it’s any phone with a supported browser)

4. Developers can make money across all platforms

5. Developing mobile web apps means largely using skills experienced web developers already (CSS, HTML, JavaScript, maybe AS3) vs. learning a new coding set for each platform

6. Developing for the browser is more open, and innovation will continue by the development community not reliant on a company

7. Companies can develop once and hit all smartphones, cutting down the development and support costs associated with multiple native apps

8. Consumers can take their apps with them to any smartphone and tablets

Of course, today mobile web apps might run slower than native apps due to their life in the cloud, and some device capabilities are not available to be applied to the browser but this is changing. Smartphones are increasing in horsepower with dual core smartphones not far off, and new development toolkits are allowing access to device-centric capabilities. Aside from the most ambitious of applications requiring deep device integration, as mobile web apps start to rival the features and functionality of native apps it makes sense that the benefits to developers, companies, and consumers will spell the beginning of the end for mobile walled gardens that we call app stores.


Touch-Tablets Are the Future. A 3 year-old Says So.

June 2, 2010


I watched him as he focused his attention on game play, moving his eyes and fingers side to side. Level 10…level 11…level 12..new high score! He’s been on the iPhone for over an hour; something his parents aren’t thrilled about but will take the quiet time when they can get it. After all, 3 year olds can be a handful. Yes, my 3 year-old nephew is an iPhone gaming pro.

I’ve been mulling over whether the coming rush of touch tablets coming to market later this year will mark the future of computing or if they’ll continue to be a novel gadget appealing only to a niche audience of users. iPad sales are through the roof with 2 million in the first 60 days, but a hot product doesn’t spell a consumer revolution. New innovation replacing existing products wholesale is what dictate a new future (think LCD monitors replacing CRTs). In 10 years will we all be using tablets?

What happens when you give a 3 year-old an iPad and let him play with it for a few hours and then take it away and give him a netbook? He looks at it confused and then asks for the iPad back or he’ll throw a tantrum. Just like I expect to be able to do virtually anything online, he expects to be able to do anything by touching the screen. To him, the experience isn’t new and exciting, it’s just the way it is. Anything else doesn’t make sense.

Of course, the consumer behavior of my generation will dictate whether tablets cause a revolution. The more you can do and the easier you can do it on a tablet, the more likely we’ll be ready to ditch the laptops we’re used to.  The more we buy the more our kids enjoy. The more our kids enjoy, the more we’re likely to buy. There’s already helpful sites, like iPadfor Kids, advising parents on the benefits of the iPad and apps for kids.

Just like the rush of ideas, applications, and platforms that made the web a natural part of our lives, the rush of developers working to bring great ideas, experiences, and platforms to tablets have the power to make tablets the new digital ecosystem device.

To my nephew’s generation it’s natural already. This video says it all. Watch then let me know what you think in the poll below.


Apple Opens the Door for Google

April 15, 2010

The tech world is a buzz with the news that Apple has effectively shut out any technology that it deems is not native to it’s platform; most notably sticking it to Adobe only 4 days before the release of Flash CS5 including the much touted ability to render Flash to the iPhone. Here’s the iPhone 4.0 SDK Terms of Service change that has caused the stir:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

Wow. This basically says that if developers want to build apps for the iPhone then they need to use technology that Apple has approved and in a manner that Apple requires. The result has been a growing developer backlash against Apple for essentially becoming the tyrant it so famously accused Microsoft of being in the 1984 commercial. It’s a secret no more that this isn’t about open standards or performance concerns, it’s about money and market share. Business is business after all.

At first look the loser here is Adobe, but this also has a massive effect on companies like Unity3D, the amazing platform for creating 3D on mobile, and Appcelerator’s Titanium which was to finally helps us develop once and deploy to all devices. So where do they turn now? Google.

Apple is the undisputed king on the touch mobile world, but Google is catching up and making the right moves. Google doesn’t want to sell you a millions phones. They want Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC and others to sell you millions of phones running Android, Google’s operating system with the growing number of Android apps. Just like Microsoft owning the market as a result of HP, Dell, Acer and other manufacturing Windows-based PCs, Google is going after the market the same way. Apple by contrast is following the same plan it did with Macs, the difference being this time around they currently lead the market.

Where Apple’s platform is closed and controlled (arguably for good reason), Google’s Android is all about being open….and Google is going to support Flash. Think about that. An open development environment and the ability to develop rich, applications you can download from the web and not have to go through a Store.

Here’s the perfect storm that might be coming Apple’s way, and make it plausible that soccer moms might dump their iPhone:

1. Beautiful Android-based devices hit the market rivaling the iPhone. Likelyhood = High: NexusOne is beautiful, and HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others will be flooding the market this year with phones.

2. Android phones tout features you can’t get on the iPhone. Likelyhood = Medium: You can’t multi-task on the iPhone (yet, it’s coming in iPhone 4.0) but you can on Android phones, you can also get turn-by-turn directions in GPS.

3. Android App Market has great applications you can’t get on the iPhone. Likelyhood = High: Most popular applications on the iPhone are now available in the Android App Market, which is growing at a torrid pace. With Apple shutting out Flash (and others like Unity3D) then you can bet that they’ll be developing for Android instead.

4. Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Google launch commercials showing a great device with great applications…and in the same breath say ‘you can’t get this on the iPhone’. Likelyhood = High.

5. Soccer mom walks into the nearest cell phone shop and says: “I’m looking for a new phone. I love my iPhone but can you tell me about these new ones with the cool apps?” Likelyhood = Medium.

If nothing else, Apple’s decision to restrict developer freedom is a positive for Google. Whether it shifts the balance away from Apple’s dominance of the North American smartphone market rests on whether developers play Apple’s game or not.

Will Apple’s dominance ensure that developers look to stay on and reap the rewards the iPhone/iPad, or will the growth of Android and Apple’s developer restrictions lure consumers and developers to Google? We should know sooner rather than later.


Apple’s Fight Against Flash Just Got A Lot Harder

March 10, 2010

The battle keeps raging and we all wait and speculate as to whether Apple will indeed keep up the fight and not support Flash on the iPhone/iPad. Well, their fight just got a bit harder for two reasons;

#1 According to Mike Chambers (Abode Principal Product Manager for developer relations for the Flash Platform) Microsoft is working with Adobe to support Flash on Win 7 phones and

#2 Flash is running beautifully on Android, and it’s not a simple game it’s Tunevision, a very impressive jukebox in the palm of your had. NewTeeVee has a nice write-up and I’ve re-posted the demo video below.

The real significance here is three-fold:

1. Flash is running beautifully on the iPhone’s #1 competitor, and in the plans of another

2. Flash is running well

3. Tunevision is running in the browser! That means develop once, not a version for Android, Apple, RIM

Of course, we’ll have to wait until Flash 10.1 is officially released and can get our hands on it but if nothing else, it makes the argument that Flash is a mobile lag a lot harder to make.


Google Buys AdMob. What Took So Long?

November 11, 2009

admob_googleBloggers and tech watchers are all a buzz today with the news that Google has acquired mobile ad leader Admob. Great move for Google and a massive congrats to Omar and the AdMob team. They’ve built up quite an impressive business in a few short years; not only becoming the largest mobile ad network, but also amassing an amazing amount of data on how people are using and engaging in mobile applications.

As noted by Forbes, Google now has access to a ton of competitive data that will bode well in the mobile platform war just heating up with Apple. I’m not discounting AdMob’s ad business but if it was the ads Google wanted then why did they wait so long to make the buy? I remember attending Dealmaker Media’s Under the Radar Mobile conference in 2007 where Omar pitched Admob to an audience of eager web heads and a panel of investors. If I remember correctly, one investor remarked, “if you can grow this you’re perfect acquisition bait for Google”. Grow it they did but Google didn’t previously step in.

AdMob has grown leaps and bounds, even making its own acquisitions to maintain it’s mobile ad leadership position. I often wondered why in such a hot space they hadn’t been acquired either by Google, or better yet, by Microsoft. Why wouldn’t Redmond step in and get a leg up by acquiring a company serving billions of mobile ads?

AdMob is located literally 20min down the road from the Googleplex. Their ad platform takes a lot of queues from AdWords. Perhaps Google played supportive big brother to Abmob’s success behind the scenes? Here’s my far fetched theory; Admob grew the business on venture money and lots of skill and technical aptitude, and possibly benefited from mentoring by folks at Google. When it got to a point that the ad business was mature enough and the data valuable enough, the acquisition was a understood formality. Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. new of the close relationship and knew that any approach would be rejected outright. Crazy?

Well, no matter what the facts are Admob is a great success story on it’s own and now a very valuable business, data, and team for Google. My conspiracy theories aside, congrats to all involved.

 


How the iPhone Changed Our Lives (or the day the App was born)

May 20, 2009

iPhone AppsThe iPhone has been celebrated for many things: great design, fun and easy to use, sharp media and a host of capabilities you never really thought you needed in a phone. But, perhaps the greatest impact Apple’s sleek device has had, and will continue to have on our lives is that it gave rise to ‘the App’. Sure, all of us that have been thinking, working, and living online since way back when know what an app is…kind of. It used to be something you used at work or at home to get something accomplished. There wasn’t any fun around it, or value outside of the exact thing you needed to do. MS Office, email, browsers, accounting programs…plus, no one ever called them apps; they are applications thank youvery much. But then came the iPhone and my sister who once took pride in not being ‘a computer nerd’ is smiling and telling everyone who will listen about the cool new ‘app’ she just downloaded. Wow.

The iPhone is great but you can get the same thing from other phones nowadays. What you can’t get on anything else is an App that lets you find the perfect place to eat, another App to get a taxi or find the closest subway stop,  and after you’re finished your amazing meal, grab the App that lets you calculate the tip between friends when you’re done. Still early? Don’t worry, find a movie to go see at the closest movie theater, play a game, or call someone long distance for free. Ya, there’s an App for that.

And that’s the genious of it. The iPhone is cool but Apps are our trusty little friends that make life more enjoyable. It’s the reason iPhone commercials don’t really talk about the phone at all but instead introduce you to more of these little digital buddies. It’s the reason that every mobile carrier and provider wants to offer an App Store. It’s the reason Google hasn’t pushed insane marketing dollars behind it’s phone. There aren’t enough Android apps yet to make your life so much better (but they’re coming!).

So, thank you Apple for giving life to the App. There’s no stopping how innovative the army of developers working on your behalf (another genious move, executed a lot better than Facebook) to make the iPhone our best friend can be, and thanks for spurring your competition to do the same.

Ideas and innovation spur more ideas and innovation. Now that the world is ready, we can get cracking on making these shiny new Apps go wherever we go. After all, my sister just asked me if she can shop for handbags on the Blackberry. Sure, why not?