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Just as the browser rendered AOL’s walled garden of content obsolete, the application experience is replacing the web page.

After fifteen years of building an always-on, ubiquitous network, we now have the right interface for it: the tablet.

In a recent post, I offered some solid research to support the end of PC dominance and the dawn of a new era, the tablet era.

One of the things that make this emerging market so exciting is that tablets offer a new user experience that expands the digital canvas. This breaks out of the web page metaphor, and significantly expands the ecosystem for online communication.

It’s about time

For fifteen years we’ve poured billions of dollars into making an always-on, ubiquitous network, and though my recent skiing excursions remind me that coverage isn’t perfect, it’s close.

But having ubiquitous access begs for a ubiquitous interface. One that activates instantly without the “boot and wait” experience of the PC, and that is great at grabbing connections and switching applications on-the-go.

There are three things that define the tablet a bona fide new user experience rather than a scaled-down laptop:

The combination of ease-of-use of the device itself, its awareness of location, and its ability to serve rich content anywhere makes it a ubiquitous access point to the always-on network. This montage is having a profound effect on user behavior.

To paraphrase one of my daughter’s beloved authors, "I would use it in a car, on a train and in a tree; it is so very convenient you see".

If Dr. Seuss were alive today he would be a tablet user and would find himself using it in places he would never consider taking his laptop. I know I’m now introducing 1960’s Addams Family reruns and science animations to my kids’ bedtime.

This wouldn’t have happened with my laptop, which gets so hot it could be used as an electric blanket.

Everyone’s all about the apps, and apps are about usefulness

In our new app-driven world, a.k.a. Web 3.0, users are thirsty for usefulness, time-savings, and truly interactive user experiences.

The tablet's whenever/wherever capability puts apps at our fingertips at any given time, without the limitations found with other small-screen devices. No-one wants more invitations to be a "friend"; we want technology that can help us get specific things done, and we don’t mind paying for it.

In 2010, app sales topped $5.2bn. Gartner estimates sales to explode to $15.1bn in 2011 and reach $150bn by 2014. (That’s the combined revenue of Apple and Microsoft springing up in the midst of a disaggregated market. Translation: Gold Rush.)

This is a true revolution

Just as the browser made AOL’s walled garden of content obsolete, the application experience is replacing the web page. Developers have heard the call.

Today, 350,000 active apps are already out there (source: 148Apps.biz). Users can tweet, check the weather, book a trip, check the snow report, report a pot hole, mark where they parked and follow a GPS path back….ah, to never lose your car in a parking lot again!

Where there is a need, there probably is an app (or there will be).

This is just the beginning…

If you’re sorthing through how to integrate 'Web 3.0' into your own business and brand, you’re certainly not alone.

In future posts I plan to address the paths marketers are following to deliver cutting edge experiences for their brands, and how different industries are changing their processes because of this richer mobile experience. There is absolutely more to come.

Dave Wieneke

Published 8 March, 2011 by Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke leads Digital Strategy at ISITE Design, and is a graduate lecturer on Digital Marketing at Northeastern University. He writes on the future of digital marketing at UsefulArts.us and he can be reached through Twitter and LinkedIn


22 more posts from this author

Comments (12)

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Carl Eisenstein

I actually disagree. I think apps are a temporary stop-gap until technologies like HTML5 come of age, and then the app will disappear and the web page will make a comeback in a huge way - doing everything you're currently doing in apps just as well as the apps can.

over 5 years ago


Steve Davies

I fully agree with you Carl and therefore only partly concur with Dave's original point.

Yes, the tablet is likely to become a game-changer due to the ubiquitous experience it 'enables', via its mobility, access and rich media capabilities, but that has nothing to do with Apps, which will become merely a temporary blip in the evolution of the web.

When I bought my iPad last July i downloaded loads of apps, thankfully for free and never use any of them regularly - whereas I acces the web, watch TV on the iPlayer (okay that's one app I use), send tweets and listen to music. And I bring it to bed and read eBooks.

HTML5 is a far more robust investment for marketeers and is portable across every browser and access point - the only thing keeping momentum behind apps is the hope of earning decent revenues via Apple's AppStore - but only a few will manage to succeed and the sensible money will follow true multi-platform solutions which was the whole reason behind hypertext markup in the first place...

over 5 years ago


Spencer Tillett

I think apps and HTML will prove complimentary for some time to come. And whilst HTML5 cranks up the dial on experience, it will be the likes of Flash and Silverlight that it displaces first.

The key advantage of apps over HTML is that they operate well offline and in areas of poor / intermittent network coverage. If your tablet spends its life within coverage of a permanent unwavering wifi connection, HTML works well. However, as soon as you start to travel you're hit by the vagaries of network coverage. You only need to try streaming media whilst on a train to discover it doesn't work well.

In spite of colossal investments in 3G networks, we're still years away from consistent, high bandwidth Internet access in every conceivable place you'd want it.

over 5 years ago

Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke, Director of Digital Strategy - ISITE Design at www.UsefulArts.us

Great comments, thank you.

Make sure to recognize that we all agree that the "application experience" whether it is generated by HTML5 or a platform SDK is deeply transformative.

And make no mistake, HTML5 is absolutely the long overdue shift from a page-based web metaphor to application design.

However these tools are generated -- it is a huge change from marketers, some of whom have firms still learning to "think like publishers". Consider how big a jump "think like a tool maker" will be.

over 5 years ago


Steve Singer

I agree with you, Dave. Apps are where it's at. The apps that break out of the 'browser mentality' get this, albeit in nascent form. For example, the brilliant Starwalk app would never work in a browser, because it's perfectly adapted to the tablet it's meant to be used on.

Once marketers, publishers, consultants begin to open their minds to the hugely creative and useful possibilities that this new technology offers, apps will overtake all forms of HTML.

over 5 years ago


Carl Eisenstein

Dave, you said: "However these tools are generated -- it is a huge change from marketers, some of whom have firms still learning to 'think like publishers'. Consider how big a jump 'think like a tool maker' will be."

Nicely put. I can definitely get behind that. It's almost as simple as "Look how useful these things can be, and you're still just PRINTING stuff?!"

But cross-platform open standards for application development is hopefully where it's at. If there's any justice in the world (which there usually isn't) it won't be proprietory, single-platform stuff like iOS or Flash. And even not Java - with or with an Android SDK.

over 5 years ago



Boy, what is this silliness? Apps replacing websites? Carl Eisenstein nailed it and said what I was going to say. Not only is it an issue of apps merely being a stopgap, but think about this from a logical perspective. Why would any business in their right mind want to build a specific program tailored to a certain hardware and software platform when they could make a universally performing web page in HTML5?

That said, apps, like applications on a computer will never go obsolete. It is necessary that one's most essential computer functions remain available to those without access to the internet or those who intentionally keep a computer off the internet (the only way to make your computer unhackable).

Finally, the most ridiculous thing in this article is referring to apps as Web 3.0, a title reserved for the Semantic Web. Eesh.

over 5 years ago

Stephen Dyson

Stephen Dyson, Marketing Manager at HMG Paints

Apps are definitely on the rise especially with the rise and improvements of smartphones and tablets. However i don't believe they will replace websites but they can work hand in hand together, websites for online and apps for offline.
The problem with apps is that currently many people epecially marketing companies only seem interested in developing for the iOs, and are not realising that there is many more platforms to develop for and an education is needed to those marketing companies developing them.

over 5 years ago


Richard Mills

Apps are definitely forging ahead, apple has moved it on yet further with the App Store for the MAC, will Google do the same with Chrome and Microsoft with Windows, I bet they do!

over 5 years ago

Daryl Irvine

Daryl Irvine, Digital Creative Director at The Walker Agency

Apps work because they are quick, focused and contextually relevant. These principals will define expectations of digital experiences over the coming years. Whether it is a device specific app, browser based HTML5 enabled experience or the next Mac OS desktop, users will expect fast, optimised delivery of relevant, 'aware'content.

over 5 years ago

Dave Wieneke

Dave Wieneke, Director of Digital Strategy - ISITE Design at www.UsefulArts.us

My IT team at Reuters loved saying they knew that Web 3.0 was semantic data. How nice, a pure tech revolution, announced in advance, and packaged two neat words.

But isn't this is like summarizing Web 2.0 as the Web driven by RSS? The technical layer is important, but big shifts are multi-faceted and unpredictable.

Remember how untidy the Web2.0 concept was...for years? Sure, Web 3.0 will be enabled by semantic data. But what if we saw this as just one vector driving a radically more interactive digital experience? That would be more like an Era than a technology.

over 5 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

I feel that the 'rush to build apps' is fast slowing as:
a) people realise the cost and hassle of doing so (approval processes, updates/maintenance, needing to build different apps for iOS, Android, other platforms, the extortionate % transaction fees the likes of Apple are taking from payments, the lack of control/ownership of the platform (Apple again)...)
b) that just "because you have an app, they will come" clearly isn't true so you get into 'app marketing' (remember the early days of the web?) which is fast becoming a very cluttered space

Personally, as many have said above, I believe that there is a future for mobile apps (e.g. phones have hardware features like an accelerometer that PCs don't which give mobile apps unique capabilities) but there is a much bigger future for mobile-optimised web apps that actually work and feel like mobile apps. So mobile apps (and the gestural interfaces of tablets) are fast influencing interactive design but that doesn't mean that mobile apps are the future.

Two things to consider:
1. The Telegraph newspaper in the UK has a very popular iPad app (see http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/the-telegraph-for-ipad/) and yet THREE TIMES AS MANY people read the Telegraph website on an iPad than use the iPad app itself.
2. Visit the Autoglass website on your smartphone (www.autoglass.co.uk) and it will spot you are on a phone and redirect you to m.autoglass.co.uk and the website you are then on will look, feel and work very much like an app (it even automatically gets rid of the browser address bar).

And, finally, on a sample of one, my wife has become addicted to her iPad and shops/browses on it all the time but doesn't have a single app installed. She's not even remotely interested in apps but loves the gestural browsing experience of using the web on her iPad whilst sitting on the sofa etc.

over 5 years ago

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