Everybody loves them. The little apps that you can download to your pad or smartphone that make life so much easier.
But why should I download an app that allows me to read Der Spiegel or 20minutes? What happened to the web?
I for my part use the device web browser bookmark features to get quick access to the news pages. I see no advantage of these news apps over direct use of a browser.
But what with all the other apps, the little tools that are so useful to us?
Here are some of the issues I see with downloaded apps:
- They are highly client platform specific. It does not help you that a new app from your insurer came out for the iPhone when you have an Android, Blackberry, Symbian or Windows phone. Developers have to rewrite the apps specifically for all the current platforms and will have to do it again as new platforms come around the corner (webOS, MeeGo, . . .)
- Apps require installation. Most of the app markets make this task easy but is has to be done manually. During the download the device might become unresponsive or slow
- It is upon the user to update the apps on his/her device. This process can be (semi-) automated but I would like to warn against it if you don’t have a flat rate of if you are roaming
- These apps fill up the device memory pretty quickly. The HTC Desire was my last phone and I constantly had memory issues with that device being forced to move as much of the applications to the memory card as possible
- After some time one might not even remember what the app was good for and why it was downloaded in the first place
Truly open web applications would run in the browser and abstract the app from the device. Sun’s Java was such a technology that created such an abstraction layer with the Java Virtual Machine but fragmentation as described above diminished its popularity.
Open web applications will provide platform independence and free from the need to download or update anything. Web-based software is coming down from the desktop while web-enabled devices emerge everywhere.
In an article entitled “Reports of the Web’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated” in the May 2011 issue of Computer Tommi Mikkonen (Tampere University of Technology, Finland) and Antero Taivalsaari (Nokia Research Center, Finland) present the Lively Web Systems Family based on the Lifely Web Kernel developed by Sun Microsystems as a possible solution.
I hope that with these approaches we will come enjoy a convergence where service providers can drop apps into the web that can be used by “anyone, anywhere on anything.”
Am I wrong?