You’ll get a different response depending on who you ask, of course. The Google camp is definitely pushing the idea that browser-based applications will be the future of how people interact with and use the web, especially on mobile devices, but not everyone agrees. Seeing the incredible success of app stores (especially Apple’s) and the lukewarm excitement around web apps, it’s a tough position to take. Ultimately, I think Google’s predictions are correct but way premature.
There are many benefits of developing for the browser but also some big drawbacks. As the big picture of the mobile platform battles pans out, we’ll surely still a variety of options to develop for. Apple’s iPhone Google’s Android OS, and Blackberry will likely lead the pack with Win Mobile, Palm’s Web OS, Symbian, and others still fighting for a slice of the action. With such a fractured landscape, a browser solution would allow companies and individuals to develop a single application that’ll work across all platforms with powerful — most likely WebKit — browsers. This would not only ensure a consistent experience from device to device, but also greatly reduce the amount of time and money required for design, development, and maintenance. Although this sounds great, a lot still needs to happen before we’ll begin to see a browser-based app strategy really reach its potential.
I think two key things need to happen in the mobile ecosystem before the browser will be a real competitor to native apps:
- Mobile data network connections need a boost. 3G networks are now fairly widespread across the planet, but downloads at around 1000kbps still wont cut it for most folks. The 4G speeds that WiMax and and other standards promise will be the boost many of us are looking for, but we’re still many years away from the painstaking roll-outs of these networks.
So is the future of mobile in the browser? Read more →