It’s almost like every developer and his donkey are creating new mobile native device applications these days. With the runaway success of the iPhone and the Google Android Smartphone OS its not hard to see why. There are a plethora of start-up companies who base their business modeled around the development of native applications for a specific device…dangerous in my opinion – but possibly successful, I’m just not sure.
Developing for devices is not a hard game to get into. With well documented APIs, downloadable development kits, tools & videos, backed by internet behemoths Apple and Google further coupled with a strong community of existing developers – it’s not hard to see why developers have produced over a 300,000 iPhone and 85,000 Android applications to date.
Other incentives for developers and development houses to create device specific apps are:
Attractive revenue splits: developers keep 70% of revenue from paid applications. The splits are the same across Apple and Google with Apple retaining their 30% whilst Google are currently opting to pass their 30% onto network operators and partners.
Easy billing: Both Apple and Google have established billing relationships or can establish a relationship quite easily should customers want to purchase applications. Apple have had this relationship with it’s customers through the iTunes store whilst Google have introduced Google Checkout. Without the need to integrate complex payment systems into their own applications, developers simple focus on functionality. Another barrier developers need not consider.
Continuing growth: Androids adoption by manufactures, carriers and customers is rampant, a recent US study had Android in second spot with 28% market share compare to Apples 21%. However Apple have not really faltered, with the introduction of the iPad & iPhone 4, even more applications are now being introduced into the Apple app store.
Low cost of inception: got a computer? got internet access? it’s as easy as that with Apple even providing development membership with access to additional resources for a measly $99/year. Expensive tools like Visual Studio are not required for a developer or small development teams to get into the game.
Low total cost of ownership: deployment or hosting overheads are eliminated with the marketplace hosting developer applications, a prohibitive cost for developers on a shoestring budget.
It’s hard to predict when, or even if, native application development will stagnate, prompting developers to seek new models or users to be behaviorally coerced into using alternatives. However, if we look at 4 new offerings in the mobile market we can draw some predictions. By no means do I mean this to be a well researched prediction but more or less what I’d like to think of as an educated guesstimate as to what the next year will bring into the mobile internet landscape. The following are in no particular order:
Jolicloud: from the creators of NetVibes, is a free new netbook operating system which recently came out of beta to v1.0. Jolicloud sounds promising in it’s attempts to mix both native apps and web apps. It preaches “bringing all the benefits of cloud computing” not sure how true it is but having run it on a virtual machine the interface is pretty and it does make discovering content seem like childs play.
hahlo: is a twitter client developed to run as a rich AJAX enabled application right from your mobile browser. Personally I find the user interface fantastic. It comes with options to view your lists, mentions and messages. Clicking on ‘Menu’ displays a great looking modal overlay which will trick you into thinking it belongs in a native app. Clicking tweet is magical…you know where I’m going with this one so best if you check out the web app yourself and make up your own mind.
Chrome Web Store: from Google opens later this year. Google are building an app store directly into their browser offering! not a bad move given they already have so much scale and have been advertising everywhere. On a recent trip to Paris I noticed on the underground, Google Chrome ads which eventually made my travelling partner – a local Parisian state “I’m going to check out Chrome from Google”. Clearly underground advertising works. Given Googles user base a big element then will bring is educating users about the so called web apps. Thanks to Apple people know about the App Store, expecting apps to be made available locally on their handset – and now Google have an opportunity to not only push web apps to browsers but to sync these with the Android operating system.
My personal view on this is as the internet become more pervasive and ubiquitous in the developing world and speeds improve in the developed world we are going to turn to the browser to deliver more of our consumption needs, more so in the mobile space. It will take time – no doubt. Web apps need to be more discoverable, but throw developers new technologies such as Sencha, support it on the mobile, and we might just find gravity moves away from Native Apps towards Web Apps.