Stepping out of the App economy

Sometime late 2010 we started working on 2 rather big mobile projects and they made me think a lot more about apps and how our thinking for mobile is all about apps. Today mobile equals apps, and we are being dictated by the likes of Apple how we have to deal with that. So how big of an improvement the introduction of apps on mobile has been, I believe we limit our thinking by that same evolution, while it shouldn’t end there.

There’s no better way to experience the hassles one has to overcome when developing apps, then to develop your own (especially when the app is for the iPhone). And it was an article on TC about Disney that acquired an HTML5 game engine that got me thinking about this whole app approach. Smart move from Disney by the way. Bye bye appstores, let’s develop game experiences the way we like and let people pay what we think is right. And for multiple OS’s at the same time, all in one take. With Android gaining market share and also WM7 that will take it’s part of the cake at some point, HTML5 mobile web apps make it a lot easier to build experiences across OS’s and devices compared to today, and without all the appstore hassle. And if you go further, when you think about developing for mobile first instead of web and then mobile, I believe there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

But the Disney acquisition isn’t having any live results yet. I think the FT was the first really big one to have made a move to go for HTML5 and the last few days or weeks a few others seem to have followed. LinkedIn just released a pretty nice HTML5 experience for mobile and earlier this week Amazon launched a similar experience for their Kindle:

“It can do everything that a normal Kindle app can do, such as synchronize your library, your last page read and bookmarks. Yet, the Kindle Cloud Reader is more of a reaction to the draconian app store rules instituted by the Cupertino giant than it is a dynamic new version of Kindle.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before those brand start pulling their apps from the appstore, or at least stop actively updating those in favor of native mobile web apps. I’m with Gigaom on this one when they say that Amazon might as well be showing media companies the future of the web with this one. Also sites as Twitter offer a rich and very nice mobile web experience, nothing like it used to be anymore.

I can only applaud brands moving in this direction and I believe that although the idea of apps on your mobile were a great innovation, they´re only a step towards a very rich mobile web experience. What´s your take?

Bonus link: HTML5 apps that are scaring the pants off Apple

My issue with the iPad

It’s not about the lack of Flash support. Although you visit less sites in their mobile version (if available) on the iPad thus the lack of Flash support is a bigger pain than on the iPhone, I knew what I was getting into when I bought one. Nor is it the lack of multi-tasking capabilities, I’m sure once iOS4 arrives on the iPad we will have that (kinda) sorted out. And also the fact that there are only few really good iPad apps is an issue (for now). There may as well be several thousand apps available (250.000 if you count all iPhone apps), we all know most of them are rubbish.

My issue is with the OS. It still is a big phone, without the phone functionalities then… probably to avoid situations like this to happen. Now a mobile phone typically is a very personal piece of technology. You don’t just hand to someone else to toy with it, it’s yours and personal. And that’s where the problem lies, for me the iPad isn’t personal. Not like the iPhone (or any other mobile phone for that matter). My wife and I both have our own mobiles but it’s rather unlikely that I we will get a second iPad, we both use it. But since it’s built on a mobile OS, it’s not really built for multiple users. There’s no need for that on a phone but it means that on the iPad there’s a primary user next to other people that can also use it. But not in the same way.

Still don’t see the problem? I really enjoy Flipboard, so does my wife. But it’s logged in with my Twitter/Facebook accounts so she cannot really enjoy that part. I could add her email account(s) to the iPad but then those would be visible to both of us, that’s not really what you want. And we try and beat each other on playing Mahjong but since there’s only one high score, it impossible to tell (remember) who it was from. It would enable me to personalize the iPad for the kids when they use it as well. With us, the iPad is typically lying around in the living room for anyone in the family to use when they feel like it. But since I’m the primary user (and the geek – yes, that too) it’s mainly setup towards my needs. I find that a missed opportunity.

It would be great to see the iOS for iPad change in a way you can have a user login upfront, similar to what we are used to on our PCs/Macs. Or the possibility to switch between users, all to get a more personal experience on a multi-user/shared device. I’m afraid that is not going to happen (soon) so maybe in that case it’s worth asking the developers of Flipboard, Reeder, Mahjong, … to implement the possibility to switch between users in the app itself. Less ideal, but it would still solve my issue with the iPad.