Apps versus Mobile websites: History is repeating

Many articles have already been written about the so called app bubble. Everybody is weighing the Pro’s and Con’s of native apps versus the mobile web and most of them believe that in the end the mobile web will be dominating.

At Pit we’re also convinced of this fact because we see history is simply repeating itself. The mobile web is becoming more dominant for almost the same reasons it did on the desktop computers, growing bandwidth, much lower development costs, easier updating, more flexible business models, discoverability etc. Therefore we believe that it will not take long for the app bubble to burst, if it hasn’t done that already.

What do you think?


Ruud said on the 31st of January 2011 at 09:37:

I guess this will be true when an generic API for phone-specific features (GPS, motion detection, camera and voice recognition) will be available for all platforms.

But what about those complex 3d games like Monkeyball? I think a webbased variant (using WebGL) will never outperform a native app.

Rowan said on the 31st of January 2011 at 09:41:

@Ruud You are absolutely right about the complex games. Indeed a webbased version will never outperform a Native one. Even more reason to think the web on mobile will develop in the same direction as it did on the desktop, because over those platforms we also play games mostly as native apps.

Patrick said on the 27th of February 2011 at 07:14:

If the history showed us one thing, it’s that native applications and web apps serve entire different purposes and are perfectly able to co-exist next to each other.

Especially on mobile devices, the functionality of web apps are much more limited, because a lot of the screen estate and user inputs are needed by web browser itself. Gestures, hardware keys etc are all mapped to browser functions and can’t be reused by your website.

Besides that, there are a lot of privacy related issues. You don’t want a random web app to have access to your contact list, your camera, microphone or sms history. Hell, you probably don’t even want your mobile browser to play any sounds. Even if you have to give a website certain permissions, it’s much less manageable.

Native apps are easy to install, easily accessible, more powerful/faster and offer much more possibilities to optimize it for a mobile platform. They will always be miles ahead of browser apps for the fact alone that any new hardware or OS feature easily can be included in the SDK. Mind you, we’re still waiting for a correct implementation of the video tag in our desktop browsers.

For games on the other hand: just install OnLive (keep in mind that any lag is caused by the fact that they don’t have any European servers in use yet). It’s bloody impressive and tackles a lot of shortcomings of our current gaming platforms like hardware dependency, backwards compatibility and time consuming installations. Cloud gaming might very well be the feature, although it’s very early and it’s currently recommended to use a wired network connection.

I personally think this is one of your weaker blog entries, because it seems like it’s quite biased from a web developer’s point of view. You just list the strengths of one platform, but don’t mention any weaknesses of the same platform or strengths of the other platform.

It doesn’t even matter which one will dominate. It’s about quality and finding out about the benefits of each individual platform and applying those to your businesses.

I can’t wait until the bubble burst, though. That’s usually the moment when quality services will survive and cheap cash-ins will be forced out of business.

Rowan said on the 7th of March 2011 at 10:21:

@Patrick: Thanks for your extensive comment!
Perhaps my post could show a bit more context than it does right now. But I think we all know the Pro’s and Con’s of native and mobile apps.

In short, the point I tried to make here was that indeed native and mobile apps are perfectly able to co-exist. And that the evolution we saw on the desktop could also be applied to the mobile platform. In which case the use of native apps will decrease and the use of mobile apps will increase over the years. For this to happen this app bubble must burst one day.

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