With Apple's growing line of mobile products, publishers, gamers and retailers are falling all over themselves to get a mobile application into the iTunes store.But for companies expecting to pad their bottom lines with app revenue, that payout is far from guaranteed.
And the din of voices disparaging the appconomy is growing louder.Google slapped back at Apple's app centric approach last year, saying: “We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.” At Startup2010 in New York on Thursday, speakers on the The Appconomy: Will Apps Crush The Web And Rule The World? panel were agreed that apps will not be the future of digital. But that doesn't mean there's not money to be made from apps today.
“Every single time something new comes out and people wonder what’s the killer app, the answer is the same. It’s the Web every time. The boring old Web.”
If that's the case, myriad companies diving into iTunes with new apps certainly aren't listening. As Silicon Alley Insider's Dan Frommer put it:
"What are all those web apps doing if this is the future of mobile?"
Denton says that it's a case of old media companies that "want to revisit their glory days and start again." These companies didn't do very well on the internet, and Denton sees the possibility of earning revenue from mobile apps as simply wishful thinking.
But Justin Schaffer, CEO of event sharing platform Hot Potato, runs a company that is very focused on apps right now. But that's not by choice, it's mostly an issue of delivery options available to them. He says:
"We're not quite at the point where we can build an amazing interface on the mobile web. It's more a function of the available tool set."
As he points out, "speed is the number one driver of whether you're going to use something in mobile."
And the mobile web is simply not at the point where it can handle full web surfing capability — at least at the rate consumers expect. Furthermore, apps allow businesses to utilize the full set of features available on smartphones.
According to Eric Litman, CEO of mobile app analytics provider Medialets:
"The experience on mobile devices has sucked. Apple has finally come out with a device that challenged the distribution model. They came up with a presentation model that made it attractive and sexy."
For niche players, like gaming companies, applications have been a major mover — and allowed for impressive technological advancements. But as Ted Morgan, CEO of location-based service provider Skyhook Wireless points out, the proposition is different for the media companies flocking to mobile apps: "Right now, it really is mostly marketing."
Even Nick Denton is willing to admit that there are marketingadvantages to being in the Apple's iTunes store, and doesn't rule out the option of putting his properties in the space going forward.
But putting a wall between mobile applications and the mobile browser may be shortsighted. Says Litman:
"Ultimately the content experience on mobile devices will be dominated by the hybridization of the two."
And it looks like that may be where the future of mobile lies. Even Google agrees. As the search giant's CEO Sergey Brin put it recently,These models are likely to converge in the future. And not the too distant future."