The Mobile Web vs Apps vs Both

As the mobile web (i.e. sites specifically designed to be viewed on mobile devices) is being replaced by mobile apps and sites that are dual purpose (i.e. the standard site can be viewed reliably in a mobile browser) Google seems to think that developers should be leverage the mobile web to create cross platform applications.

As it stands now developers generally have to create versions of their apps for both the iPhone and Android (and webOS a distant 3rd) not to mention a separate version for the ‘standard’ web.  This can be a daunting task and in many cases developers will just go with iPhone development because it has the largest user base.

Technologies like HTML5 might offer developers an alternative option that not only works cross platform, but also removes application stores, over the air updates, memory issues and more from the equation.

For example, recently Apple and Google had a little tiff over gVoice apps the big-G tried to get approved in the iPhone app store. Long story short, after some back and forth, Google decided that developing a mobile version of Google Voice in HTML5 was a better option than bothering with app stores.  With a single blow Google created an ‘app’ that works on Windows Mobile,  the iPhone and my ever forlorn WebOS.  And, for the record, it works well…though I must say, not as well as the gVoice app that used to be available (the major difference is that you have to dial out to listen to voicemails rather than just clicking ‘listen’ in the app…I expect that to be resolved eventually).

It raises some interested questions as OEMs begin to draw their party lines…  Each OEM is looking to find a solution that allows users to take advantage of mobile connectivity just like they do with a smartphone, but while driving safely and leveraging the advantages of the in-vehicle platform (continuous power, better speakers, increased mobility, etc).  Rather than choosing a platform that may close off options or leveraging the user devices to minimize what the system has to do, does it make sense for OEMs to consider the web browser as their platform for delivering apps and services.

Obviously I’m not talking about a fully operational web browser while I’m driving, but it essentially turns the in-vehicle system into a thin client with the browser as the portal to the various web sites.  It could easily be configured in almost exactly the same way apps would need to be setup (i.e. big buttons, easy menus, lots of shortcut buttons, etc), but rather than downloading an app to the car or having to pair your phone the in-vehicle system displays the app in real-time as needed.  The standard thin-client problems would, of course still exist (primarily, if there is no connection then there is no service), but those problems exist in many forms under the app model as well.

Since connectivity will never be available across 100% of any country I’d expect that in the long term there will be a blending of the thin-client and embedded models to create a hybrid that takes advantage of the best of both worlds.  I definitely believe that it makes the most sense for developers to pursue opportunities that will have the broadest reach and to that end, it’s definitely worth considering what Google is saying.

via [Venture Beat]

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