The Future of the Web: Mobile Apps to replace Web Apps

After a recent report by Mobile Crunch that the mobile location-based game Booyah has outgrown Foursquares and Gowalla reaching 1 million mobile users, combined with recent reports on the future of the Web at top conferences on the subject, and affirmed by recent trends in VC’s investing strategies in the IT sector, I have become convinced that the future of the Web is in mobile apps and not Web-based applications, sometimes referred to as “software as a service”.

In the last decade, we have witnessed a revolution in Web app design both in terms of the user experience and the richness of functionality. Arguable, the most successful and revolutionary Web app for consumers has been Gmail, and more recently Google Apps. Facebook is another great example of a Web app, with more social focus. All is good, and more Web apps are coming, but then what?

While the laptop is becoming a replacement to the desktop for many, smart phones such as iPhone and Blackberry are becoming a replacement for laptops. The new trend in mobile consumer usage, set by Apple’s iPhone and followed by RIM’s Blackberry and Google’s Android, is to access services and information through apps instead of mobile-friendly websites. Is your website optimized for mobile access? Big deal – new mobile browser can render most websites in a usable fashion. But who cares? If you don’t have an app to access your site then it’s simply boring. I believe boring is not the main reason though. It all boils down to the look and feel. Mobile apps provide a consistent look and feel with the rest of the mobile interface, a lot more so that a Web page does.

Based on these trends, I believe that the value of “software as a service” as being the future of desktop apps for consumers will slowly (or quickly?) diminish; while mobile apps will increase in sophistication and become the norm for accessing your email, social networks, documents, spreadsheets, organizer, etc.

Some may argue that the desktop, or the laptop, will still be ahead in software due to the limited screen size that mobile devices affords. Apple has negated that claim last month with the release of its iPad. QED.

3 thoughts on “The Future of the Web: Mobile Apps to replace Web Apps

  1. @TheSandyWalsh

    I largely agree Tony. I like the fact that your didn’t specifically select Apple as the winning platform. I think Apple will have a market for home users, but having an open platform will still be attractive to a large market and that’s where Android will fit (unless Apple offers an Open and a Safe option in the app-store). My rationale here is that we need to see more VM’s on the mobile devices. Apple has prohibited these and that will push their developer base into a niche. Android / Palm (HP) / Nokia / Windows will allow a VM to run and this portability of apps across platforms will keep them alive. If it’s a VM, then the line blurs between desktop and mobile device. Anyway, the browser engine will likely be replaced with a VM (see http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2010/May-03.html )

    HTML5 Local Storage and Web Sockets are the other things that gives me pause. They remove the need for constant server hits and could keep web-apps alive. At least until GUI frameworks stop being a pain to code to. Try this demo on your iPhone: http://webapp-net.com/Demo/Index.html

    Nice to see you blogging again!

  2. taa Post author

    @TheSandyWalsh thanks for the elaborate comments. The links about VM, and the TechCrunch article it sites (http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/30/joe-hewitt-web-development/) are very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Interesting how discussion continued on twitter:

    @maxgrinev agree with @tony_aa. Phones will be computers where every app is connected to the internet, not just one!

    @uszabo Yes, connected for sure. But the question is whether apps will be Web-based or VM-based (see comment to @tony_aa post) or native

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