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The Challenge for Mobile Web Success

The tech and marketing pundits are looking for the silver lining of these bleak times and “everything mobile” seems to be it. Perhaps another “bubble” to burst? Yet the numbers and chatter certainly seem to be pointing that way as indicated on Marketing Charts today. Such research by Tellabs says upwards of 71% of Americans and 41% of Western Europeans will use mobile data services more this year.

Of course the main concern of users is reliability, speed and…cost. Regardless, we’ve witnessed the gold rush of apps makers to cash in on iPhone apps (despite evidence that the Power Law Curve is very much at work here in that 97% of the apps downloaded don’t get used more than 2-3 times before they’re forgotten.) BlackBerry apps trail behind and then it trickles down for Google’s Android and other devices. And therein lies what I see as the single biggest problem.
Cross-platform development capability. It’s just not there. In fact, it reminds me of Windows Vs. Mac not so long ago. You had no way to interchange or share files. Today, this is not the case. The Web has further eliminated this divide with Webware apps.
Today, developing an app for a mobile device pretty much means you have to devote significant resources to one particular device or find a way to deliver the service via a WAP browser to reach other devices. All of which increases costs through larger development teams, increased learning curves and support.
One interesting service that may be an indicator of the ability to cover this “gap” is, well, PhoneGap. Best of all, it’s Open Source. While it isn’t perfect yet, I suspect it may be the “Linux” of mobile apps.
Until we see such a service broaden, I suspect user satisfaction will remain limited and the true explosion of mobile apps somewhat stunted.
What do you think? Have I missed the mark?

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