Happy 2009 New Year to all my readers. My first post of the year is about mobile applications: local/native vs. web, and app-stores.
App-stores have been shifting the balance on application development and distribution (back) towards local/native applications. I don’t mean to undermine mobile web which will continue to be very important and very large for access of information of type “web content”. But the reason for this is the same reason I’ve been preaching for a long time: the ability to deliver/maximize “application richness, functionality and experiences” – which (today) maximizing these is only possible via local/native applications. This is the same topic took Ajit and myself into a debate at JavaOne’s keynote a couple of years; that was fun.
What I’m describing above can be seen on the iPhone which is the best mobile web handset today, and which redefined and raised the bar on mobile web applications, yet the really cool applications are local/native, and more importantly, developers of local/native applications seem to be the ones who are generating (receiving) the most revenue – after all, it is about making money. And this trend will continue… I do believe that in the future mobile web will be able to match the richness and functionality of local/native applications, once the proper APIs and functionality are put in place and become standard, and that today a happy medium are local/native applications that consume mobile web content; i.e. hybrid apps providing the best of both worlds.
And when combining the above with App-stores, which provide for the application discovery and revenue streams for developers, the market place becomes very attractive and thus active.
But to be successful, app-stores must exhibit certain characteristics:
- From the end-user perspective: the app store must be seamless and well integrated into the user experience. Downloaded applications must work. There must be a good selection of high-quality apps. Integrated checkout/payment is easy and straightforward and secure. The end-user is in control, including influencing how applications will perform on the market (via feedback that influences ranking).
- From the developer perspective: there must be a low cost and barriers to entry and distribution. Must provide application visibility (see below). Good revenue model. Provide feedback back to developers for improvement.
- Application visibility: the app store must provide the means for good application visibility. Already established applications are ranked appropriately based on user feedback, while new applications (including new versions) go into a different bucket that allows them to be visible regardless of ranking (perhaps for a period of time).
- As Ajit writes, must provide a true ecosystem (that benefits everyone: developers, network providers, the end-user, and so on).
Part of the above is why the iPhone has been successful. And is also the reason that I expect the Android app store to do well once it starts paying back to developers — it is just then when the Apple and Android stores can be compared.
There are app stores for Java ME, for example GetJar. The problem faced by GetJar is that there are things that are out of their control, such as cost and barriers to entry (due to fragmentation and certifications and fees and it is just a pain-in-the-neck to deal with network operators issues in general), and not being well integrated (seamless integration) into the overall user experience.
For years I’ve been attributing the lack of integrated solution for Java ME that works (per the above) for application discovery and download and revenue share, as one of the top the reasons why Java ME has failed to maximize its opportunity. As a member of MIDP expert group, this is an important lessons learned for me, that sometimes you do need to include such functionality into the platform vs. expecting 3rd parties to solve the problem; this seamless solution is still needed for Java ME…
On Goodbye 2008 and welcome 2009 and some predictions on mobility I made some predictions on app stores, which I will repeat here:
- Google will introduce a checkout process for its app store, and developers wanting to make money will notice; the Google app store will explode with a large number of applications.
- App stores will continue to have its huge effect on mobile apps and distribution. Due to the revenue and fast distribution models offered by iPhone and soon Android app stores, developers will first target such local applications (vs. mobile web). An even larger number of local/native applications will be created and distributed via app stores for Android and iPhone.
- The BlackBerry app store will be somewhat successful.
- Someone will introduce an app store for mobile web that goes beyond an application catalog. dotMobi will take leadership by going beyond an application catalog but also providing an associated business/revenue model.
Last but not least, and related to this topic, check out Paul Golding (Wireless Wanders) on his video blog entry Mobile 2008/9 all about App Stores where he discusses and provides his insight on why app stores have been important in 2008 and how important they will be in 2009… right on.
Also related to this see Ajit on Mobile Web Megatrends event – Making money from Appstores – Singapore – April 27 and 28, as well as his related thread on ForumOxford.