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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.

As panelist and Gawker founder Nick Denton recently told Newsweek:

“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."

Meghan Keane

Published 20 May, 2010 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Will

If people are buying apps right now then it probably makes sense to jump on the bandwagon. But I never really understood why apps were popular when we made such strides with thin client apps.

But after buying an iPhone it's much easier to use tweetdeck and hotmail apps then try to scroll through a website in Safari due to the small size of the screen, etc.

over 6 years ago

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Ed

Yes, there will be a growth. No doubt. But don't think we should get massively carried away. 
People will still just want to do things that they've done for years i.e. read online articles and blog posts, news updates, listen to music, text, email, microblog, search, and a few more, including just speak ... These things aren't going to be replaced in some huge way by apps. There's more scope for growth in entertainment-like and niche-subject apps, i think, but not i think so much growth in brand apps (kind of similar to brand microsites - there have been and continue to be great brand microsites - but, in general, i think there's been a certain loss of interest in brand microsites). 

over 6 years ago

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Kids online games

I agree that there will be a growth and they will continue to change the way we live, work and play. Currently, there is almost an app for everything and Google is continue to grow rapidly with their browser-based apps. It can be quite tough to tell what will be the future for mobile - apps or bowsers - or are we already in the future?

over 6 years ago

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Douglas McDonald

It's not a case of the philosophy of mobile. It's a relatively simple case of the inclusive but limited web option weighed up against a better experience that is fairly exclusive. However, when you look at the traffic that makes up mobile web visitors - they are pretty much the same handsets that can (and do) download apps.

It's perfectly reasonable to only produce an iPhone/Android app - and those handsets also have Webkit browsers that can view your (much richer) "enhanced sites. The problem is discoverability of apps vs a re-direct for mobiles from your main site which will get more "views" than an app. So the 2 questions are really

"Do I care about the 20% - 30% of regular surfers who don't have smartphones?"

and

"Can I afford to spend a fair amount of cash on promoting an app when my existing web marketing will create traffic for my mobile web version?"

over 6 years ago

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Peter Cranstone

There is already a solution out there that combines the richness of the Mobile app with the power and flexibility of the Web app. It's the hybrid that you describe in your blog. 

Cheers,

Peter

5o9 Inc.

over 6 years ago

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