(Update: this piece omitted voice as a medium, and it has been updated to reflect such.)
A good post by Tom Hume on Iterations, mobile, and Java, on the debate of web vs. local, a debate that in my opinion is getting kind of old. Yet, it is something that still needs to be talked about. Tom is right on the spot. Below I expand on this topic.
Web vs. local vs. user experience
IMHO, it is not about web vs local. It is about the right approach to use to deliver a mobile application, one that meets the needs or requirements, and that delivers the best user experience; a common theme in this blog is that it is about the mobile user experience. Interestingly, “best user experience” is a relative thing, where for some people, texting is just fine, while others prefer a richer experience.
From texting to local
Some applications are perfect targets for texting-only, while others must be delivered over the mobile web and/or as a local application. Yes, all of those “application channels” must be explored, and the one to use all depends on the target audience, user experience (related to this is device integration), as well as “time-to-market vs. technology gap” considerations; the latter refers to the desire to deliver something, but can’t due to the state of the technology, thus, an alternative (probably less elegant) approach must be used in the meantime.
Be good at delivering applications the right way: don’t create a local or web application, if your main target is the “texting demographic”. Texting is the most predominant use, second to voice, for mobile handsets. All applications, in my opinion, should consider some kind of text-based offer of request information. As a matter of fact, when creating a mobile application, you must consider the following “order”, based on factors such as target audience, user experience, cost to the user and cost to you (cost of operations), time to market, and as mentioned above, “time-to-market vs. technology gap” considerations: 1) Text-based (and MMS-based), 2) web-based, 3) local application — the idea is to maximize critical mass use of your (mobile, end-to-end) application, and 4) voice.
Update: the title of this whole piece and this particular section should have included voice: From voice, to texting, to web, to local… The bottom line is that voice, being the primary usage for phones (for communication), is a great medium for delivering information, but voice is, in most cases, more intrusive and linear (slower) that visually representing the same information.
About local, and the pain of provisioning
I would like to include here, part of the comment that I left at Tom’s blog:
Now, we all agree that the best experience is offered by local applications. What we really need to figure out is how to make “provisioning/downloading” very very very simple. I believe people WILL download applications if they bring value. But the process today is just too painful still.
Related to this see Barbara’s presentation: choosing a mobile development platform.