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Will the Mobile Web Destroy Apps? Mobile Internet access is a relatively new phenomenon and the speculation about what or who will control its future is already raging. The focus on apps has spurred on much of the controversy. Apple has its App store, and Google Android has its Android Market. The primary issues involved are the conflict between “Open Platform vs. Close Platform,” and device specific applications verses universal web based applications. Nevertheless, this is not a new debate. Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux Windows applications verses Mac applications verses Linux applications is another war raging on for years and will continue indefinitely. Developers learned how to port applications to the specific platforms they needed so their apps could achieve market share. Adobe, long associated with Apple, had windows versions of their software, but at the same time, as web technology advanced and Web 2.0 entered our Internet lexicon, Web based applications rose up and made a place for themselves. The Real Issues Let’s face it, there are two choices when it comes to mobile platforms, Google Android and Apple iOS. The “closed” side of the equation is the iOS including iPad, iPod, and iPhone; the open side is Android-in its many iterations. The pressure has been on Apple to loosen its reins over App policies, and recently Apple has been lambasted for demanding 30 percent of all subscription publication revenue sold on the iOS platform. The effort is, obviously, to create another closed ecosystem as Apple did with Mac. Do you remember how that worked out? Android is so open that the issue is a non-starter; available to anyone that wishes to create their own version of the platform, as well as develop Apps for it. Web Apps vs. Mobile Apps The technical issue is speed and device resource usage. Mobile platform native Apps are naturally faster than a web-based app because mobile apps have direct access to the hardware resources of the device. However, this issue really only applies to Apple and the upcoming WebOS, formerly of Palm fame. While there are other platforms out there such as Blackberry OS, Windows Phone 7, Maemo, or MeeGo, if existing market share trends are any indication, the only two that matter are Android and Apple. Possibly Windows Phone, maybe, but it is a long shot. Android is easy; Mobile Web developers are free to develop corresponding Android Apps if they like to optimize performance. For iPhone and iPad, it is a different story, as the cost to develop bars many from even trying. For Windows Phone, the platform is more mature and there exists plenty of code to work with, but Windows Apps are “Johnny come lately,” and the recent alliance with Nokia may not help. The Future of Web vs. Mobile Apps Android has a powerful running start in the mobile platform space and while Apple was in first, it is fighting an increasingly defensive battle, in spite of their sales. The Windows-Nokia alliance will put Windows in the running but that has yet to develop. Like Internet and desktop applications, there will be room for both with no exclusive winner, but the emergence of “The Cloud” as a major player will push Web applications forward. The device will never be a transparent window to the web completely, and native platform applications will always have their place. The most likely future is a continuous hybrid of the two. Android lends itself well to that model and the real winner may not be either Mobile Web or Native Apps but rather Android itself by allowing free access for developers to take advantage of the blending of the two.
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