Mobile Market Wrap-up for July 31, 2009

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, Apple is walking a slippery slope by building a walled garden around the iPhone.  Well… this week they started slipping and generated a fair amount of negative press, all starting with Apple barring Google Voice apps from the iPhone App Store.  This includes both third-party Voice-compatible applications as well as Google’s official Voice application.  It’s no surprise that Apple’s actions against Google created a buzz, and here are some articles on what industry experts are saying:

All I can say is … OUCH!  I’ve been saying for a while that Apple is making strategic mistakes similar to what they did in personal computing.  It’s only a matter of time before the masses see what the experts are saying.

What’s most interesting with the latest Apple developments is that they are going head-to-head against Google.  But wait, aren’t they everyone’s two favorite companies?  Shouldn’t they get along so all of us can be happy?  Nope.  Google is making a strong push into mobile which threatens Apple since they share the same cult followers and now users will have to pick between the companies.  Who would you pick?  My vote is for Google because they are doing mobile the right way.  They’ve enabled multiple handset manufacturers to build phones and let consumers choose a device that fits their lifestyle.  They have a strong OS designed to support cloud-based apps.  They are not controlling content.  Here are some articles on positive steps Google is taking in the market:

Over the next year, I predict that we’ll see Apple and Google become bigger rivals and when these two juggernauts go to battle, it means only one thing… goodness for us consumers!

Earning season continues with Verizon and Sprint reporting this week.  Verizon saw a drop in their profit but added 1.1 million wireless customers.  They also said that the Palm Pre will be out on Verizon and that they are launching an app store.  Sprint struggled again last quarter, reporting a drop in earnings and lost 250,000 customers but it seems their decline has slowed down after they released the Pre.  Sprint also announced this week their intention to purchase Virgin Mobile for $483 million, to add to their pre-paid business.   This move to focus on pre-paid business might make sense with the Palm Pre becoming available on Verizon, opening the door for more customers to jump ship. 

As always, here are other stories and news I found interesting during the week:

In reference to the last item above, Gregg just released a 5-part blog series that discusses the Mobile web vs. app debate. Anyone interested in mobile apps should read all five articles as they provide excellent insight and analysis.

Mobile web or app? – The Great Mobile Debate

This is the introduction to a five-part series of articles that we will run over the next week on the mobile web versus application debate that is raging in the mobile world.

We get asked all the time by customers what’s the best way to reach mobile consumers – through the mobile internet or through a mobile application. With all the hype out there on applications, everyone thinks that apps are the way to go. We wholeheartedly disagree. While apps have all the hype and sex appeal, they are not the best way to promote your company and brand on mobile devices, especially over the long haul. While apps can provide some short-term bang, what happens when the novelty wears off? When a user changes phones or carriers, how do you keep your brand in front of the mobile consumer? In our view, developing a strong presence on the mobile internet provides a much better return on investment, more flexibility, and a longer lasting brand presence than applications.

We have already written an article or two on the subject (Smartphone apps are NOT the answer, Are smartphone applications technology progression or regression?), but over the next week we are going to get into more detail and run a series of articles that will explore the mobile web versus mobile application debate.

In preparation for next week, here’s some recommended readings so you can get up to speed and see what others have had to say about the topic. Do your homework, read the articles, and I look forward to your comments and engaging in a lively discussion next week!

Are smartphone applications technology progression or regression?

The popularity of smartphone applications has grown immensely since Apple opened their app store last year, which has impressively served over 1 Billion downloads already.  As a result, other smartphone manufacturers and carriers are following Apple’s lead trying to capitalize on this “out-of-control” phenomenon.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about (highly unlikely) just search for BlackBerry App World, Ovi by Nokia, Android Market, and Windows SkyMarket.  In my opinion, this is only the beginning of the app craziness.

What’s most interesting to me is that mobile apps are not new.  I’ve been using a variety of enterprise and productivity apps on my BlackBerry for several years, but the only difference is now I can find apps easier using the respective stores.  Before these mobile stores opened their doors, I had to check a vendor’s website to see if they had a smartphone app for what I wanted. 

So why are apps (and app stores) all of a sudden the new hot craze?  It’s really a marketing gimmick by the handset manufacturers and carriers to generate more revenue from each mobile user.  Since mobile apps have to be downloaded and installed, the handset manufacturers and carriers can be the gatekeepers giving them access to new (and obviously plentiful) revenue streams.

This begs me to ask the question “are mobile apps really technology progression or regression?”

I find this question very interesting since it spurs a lot of heated debate with people I talk to, but in my mind, it’s a simple answer from a technology perspective.  Smartphone apps are regression! 

Looking at personal computing today, most consumers and businesses are working hard to free their desktop and move into the cloud so we can access our data and services anytime, anywhere.  So why should mobile be any different?  It’s really the same model as the desktop but a much thinner client, yet we are locking apps to our phones, the most mobile of devices.  As we load apps onto our phones, we run into the same issues as we’ve struggled to eliminate over the past decade, including constant app updates, app conflicts, and system compatibility issues.

 To give you a sneak peak of what we can expect if we keep following this regressive app path, Aumnia’s engineering manager loaded several new apps onto his phone last week and one of them corrupted his OS causing his email client to go nuts.  It would randomly delete, synchronize, or turn off.  He is extremely technical and tried hard to fix the problem.  But in the end, he was forced to wipe the entire handset and start from scratch.

 If we really desire technology progression, we need to ignore the hype from the handset manufacturers and carriers (who are financially motivated to push apps) and find ways to keep all functionality and applications that can be done in the cloud, in the cloud.  Then we could truly access what we want anytime, anywhere.