Apps: Are We on the Wrong Tack?

The iOS home screen.

Image via Wikipedia

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:

  1. 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, . . .)
  2. 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
    Android robot logo.

    Image via Wikipedia

  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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.

HTML5 and WebGLare other likely candidates to enable the vision of convergence to one web with applications for all devices and platforms.

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?

About Hellmuth Broda

Independent Information and Communications Technology Strategist with an interest in the construction sites between business, society and technology. http://www.hellmuthbroda.com
This entry was posted in Internet, Web and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Apps: Are We on the Wrong Tack?

  1. Francis Rabuck, a colleague of mine at Techcast.org commented on this post at anoher location:

    Mobile Apps are certainly hot now. But as we demand more integration, complexity and cross-platform capability – the concept of Apps will transition to web-based applications. (W-Apps)

    All of this is dependent on the maturity of HTML 5/CSS/JavaScript. Although HTML5 is still not a fully defined standard, many products are evolving around the generation of cross platform tools for HTML5.

    HTML5 is different than past web standards in that – 1) it can run as an independent application and doesn’t need to access a server – thus you can now have standalone apps.
    2) HTML5 allows you to reach into the device and control all the sensors native to the devices – contact lists, gps, voice – almost all controls available on the device. 3) the graphics capability approaches the rich intereface of native desktop applications or Flash on the web.

    Adobe just released a new tool for creating HTML W-Apps called EDGE – it is an alternative to flash. Microsoft originally was pushing Silverlight as a development platform for the future – but has backed off and is more supportive of HTML5 now. Many other companies are producing tools for the development of cross-platform W-Apps. Most notable are: Appcelerator Titanium, PhoneGap, Corona, AppMobi, and many, many more.

    The only problem with these cross platform tools is that a single solution based on HTML 5 might not have the exact unique “feel” as a native application for that device. I think eventually we’ll all become familiar with the generic UI of these systems and applications – and development will explode.

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