The costly risk of ignoring Wapps…

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Mobile

[tweetmeme source= “jsnrss” only_single=false]A problem is looming of the scale of the Betamax vs VHS HDDVD vs Blueray days. With the mobile app market growing at an astonishing rate, the number of app platforms (iPhone, Android etc) to consider is increasing in complexity and Wapps (Web apps) might just prove to be the solution.

The problem
There is no denying the iPhone app market evolved much faster than anybody predicted. With over 250,000 apps on the iTunes app store today, their popularity is undeniable. The iPad has been another string to the app store success and ensures Apple will remain king of the hill for a while longer.

However, as time goes on and other mobile manufacturers refine their smartphone capabilities,  other app stores (Android Market,  Samsung Apps, Nokia Ovi Store and Blackberry Appworld for example) are gaining popularity and distorting the app  landscape. Smartphones are not the only devices distorting the landscape, as new tablets like the Blackberry Playbook and Samsung Tab emerge, ensuring that the confusion over ‘what platform to develop my app for?’ deepens – making the choice(s) potentially very costly.

To add to this, you have the big mobile operators (AT&T, Vodaphone, Orange, NTT DoCoMo, Verizon to name a few) joining forces trying to cash in on the mix by forming the Wholesale Applications Community [] aiming  to ‘provide greater choice for users by enabling portability of applications across devices, operating systems and network operators’.

The end result is an ever more complex landscape for deciding what mobile platform to develop for. Whilst this is lucrative great news for app developers, it makes the creation of mobile content (increasingly so) more costly.

Will Wapps be the answer?
Wapps – or Web apps – are nothing new, but they are the ‘not so spoken about’ alternative to developing apps. Wapps can provide the same user experience provided by apps but require nothing more than just pointing your mobile web browser at a URL (as opposed to actually downloading an app). Unlike device specific apps, Wapps are practically device independent and provide a very similar user experience to that of an app.

Apple for example has the (shhhh) Web apps store. Google does too – their whole Google experience (search, maps, gmail, iGoogle and more) is available as Wapps.

iPhone homescreen Google mail on iPhone screenshot

From a launch icons on the desktop through to a smooth browser based interface - Wapps provide a platform independent 'app experience' via a browser.

In summary
I am not saying that Wapps will not eradicate the need for apps  – they do have certain limitations such as they cannot (yet) cache local data – so would not be useful for apps that require offline availability for example.

But, I would argue that many apps installed on your phone today could have been developed as Wapps. This would not only make them immediately accessible  on most smartphones but from a cost point of view provides huge savings by eliminating the need to create an app per mobile platform.

As the number of mobile platforms increase and the better developers get at developing Wapps, the question won’t so much be “what platforms should I create my apps for” …but will more likely be “could my content be delivered as a Wapp instead”.

Not considering this could prove to be a very costly mistake.

  1. […] tail’ mobile solutions for older devices, jQuery and Web apps (see a past post about this – The costly risk of ignoring Wapps) further complicating the scene, the attached should serve as a good starting point for anyone […]

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