Michael Mace posted an article on his Mobile Opportunity blog that put me in a bit of a sad mood to start off my Monday morning. I realize my mobile usage is out of the norm, but I personally have a ton of 3rd party applications loaded on all my devices and find them to be extremely useful, fun, and vital to my mobile computing needs. Michael talks about how on-device applications are going away and being replaced by web applications. While I think there are some very good web-based and iPhone optimized mobile applications, IMHO nothing beats a good application loaded on a device.
For example, yesterday I decided to grab my iPhone for church instead of the Shadow or other Windows Mobile device I usually take along. I tried using iPocketBible, but unfortunately I was only seeing 1 bar on AT&T's network in the sanctuary so I was unable to get a solid connection and read while the pastor was directing us to Bible verses. I decided to never again attend church without having an onboard Bible application.
Michael talks about how we went from primarily Palm and Pocket PC to now Windows Mobile (Smartphone and Pocket PC), S60 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Edition), Palm, iPhone, Android, embedded Linux, and more which makes it difficult for a developer to create applications across platforms. Another issue is certification of applications and now that most all devices have cellular radios in them the wireless carriers get involved in the testing and approval process.
He describes a rather depressing outlook for mobile developers looking to build applications dedicated to platforms. However, the article also may be looked at as creating opportunities for web applications. I personally am much more inclined to pay for a dedicated application rather than a web application that relies on network connectivity and am not sure developers will be able to make as much profit with applications that rely on carriers and connectivity.
I also think it is a bit early to write the obituary for mobile applications. Those of us on the edge of mobile technology use generally seem to have lots of 3rd party applications on our devices, while those new to smartphone usage are just now discovering mobile applications. I think it is still early in the general adoption of smartphones by "normal" people and as more and more of them figure out how much their devices can do I think onboard applications still have a bright future. It may end up that only the best applications survive, but that is fine with me since I have no need for 300 Palm OS calculators. Just like the way the iPhone opened people's eyes to surfing on their mobile devices, I think 3rd party applications on the iPhone may expose people to 3rd party applications across many platforms.
Do you think web applications are the way to go? Should developers really stop creating apps to be loaded onto devices?