In the Rush to Apps, Developers Suggest Browsing

by Sam Eifling  on Monday, Jun. 7, 2010 12:00 am  

Cost will remain a major obstacle to app development. Ballpark prices might range from $5,000 for what Norris called a "pretty powerful mobile interface" up to $15,000 to $35,000 for "a really rich experience." But that cost is only per platform, so reaching iPhones, Android phones and BlackBerries will triple the price. A marketing firm has to be able to show a return on that investment into apps, because typically the budget for an app will come out of a company's existing marketing budget.

"The splinternet" is what Jones dubs this world of fractured platforms and diffuse access points to the Web. No wonder many companies will simply customize a pre-packaged app they can buy for several hundred dollars, or in the case of location-based marketing (apps' forte) plug into a social media program such as FourSquare, Gowalla or Loopt. "Before we get to a place where we talk about creating your own application, take advantage of applications already in use," Jones said.

The rise of mobile Internet access has changed developers' view of the Web as much as it has opened up a world of mobile applications. Morgan Stanley's Mobile Internet Report in 2009 predicted that mobile Web access will surpass access via personal computers within five years. "What we're doing with all our Web development is making it quicker to download, quicker to use," Norris said. "This isn't only the future; it's now."

Rockfish Interactive in Rogers built an app for Arvest Bank that took advantage of the iPhone's GPS, that allows users to find the branch nearest them, and an app for Johnson & Johnson that incorporated gaming and a user's iTunes library. But those are the exceptions for companies' mobile computing needs, said Jerry Osmus, the vice president of mobile at Rockfish. Unless an app takes advantage of a smart phone's camera or its positioning abilities, its mobile browsing capability is more imperative. That means building WAP sites - short for Wireless Application Protocol - that can interact with the range of smart phones.

"Apps are the glory thing; they're the big shiny object," Osmus said. "If you go back 10 years ago when all of the rave was visual basic apps running on PCs, it's kind of the same paradigm, and all of that shifted to the Web because of broadband and all the functionality served up on Web pages. I could say you could see that same shift in the next couple of years: people moving away from app and to WAP.

"Your 3G networks are all going 4G," he continued. "Mobile Web browsing is going to continue to go places. Apps are a little more elegant, a little more user friendly, but as networks continue to evolve, browsing is getting faster."



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