Google exec: Developers need to focus on skinny mobile apps

Developers would need incentives to start worrying about how much bandwidth their apps would use.

A Google executive said Monday that mobile developers need to create apps with bandwidth limits and metered access plans in mind.

Speaking at a Pacific Crest investment conference, John Lagerling, director of Android global partnerships at Google, spoke on a panel about the future of computing. He was joined by John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, and Intel's Steve Smith, director of netbook and tablet development at the chip giant.

Lagerling spoke about how the cloud can ease the strain on mobile computing resources, but developers really need to create lean applications. After all, there's only so much wireless spectrum to go around. The lack of lean applications is an industry-wide problem. Companies like Google need to incent developers to keep applications lean. Lagerling said:

What we haven't done yet that I think is sort of in the pipeline is to incentivize everybody, including the developers as well, to be able to lean their applications. We haven't even augmented yet the possibility to show users how much each app is using.

How much bandwidth is my Skype clients using as opposed to my Twitter clients or my Google+ clients?

And it's more U.S. -- specifically in the U.S., carriers move towards metered plans where you basically pay per gigabyte even or you start with a bundle and then pay for add-on gigabytes. I think we naturally need to give end-users better visibility on which apps are consuming more.

Lagerling added that there's a lot of low-hanging fruit on the skinny app front for technology. Incentives, however, will matter. The industry needs to give incentives to developers to make apps leaner.

A lot of the web developers haven't even started thinking about that. They are simply just pumping out their mobile apps. There is a lot that can be done there already. And then actually help the end-users to manage where they actually prioritize the uses of their data. Again, from the user perspective.

Engates said Web sites and apps will have to read the user device and dish out features based on bandwidth. Engates said:

If applications have tons of bandwidth available, you might get a full feature set, a richer feature set. If you don't have much available, you might slim that down to a minimal amount if that makes sense. The other thing that I think will happen, you will have a lot more caching going on. As the device gets more memory, more physical storage or whatever that will look like in the future, you will be able to cache more of the data that would normally come down from the cloud.

Smith added that the thin apps don't necessarily mean that video will be ruled out.

We need to have real-time video communications with smart use of bandwidth. I think that is going to be a huge application. And I think we are not done with that kind of transition until not only personal communication but also what is today broadcast media shift more and more toward delivery over IP and delivery over mobile.