Progress towards the mobile web and away from apps

By December 18, 2009 23 Comments

Regular readers will know I see the iPhone/app store as a passing phase in mobile, a step on the way to a web paradigm equivalent to what we have on the PC.  One of the big questions is how long this current phase lasts and with the momentum of the iPhone and the rush by all sorts of mobile players to open app stores one has to say it is still in the growth phase.  That said, two pieces of news today point to the true mobile web not being too far away.

Firstly Firefox has announced a new mobile browser which they claim will:

  • be very fast
  • support plugins
  • sync with your PC, including bookmarks and open tabs
  • allow developers to have apps running on multiple devices from a single code base

The fourth bullet is a big deal, and Firefox sees this as the beginning of the end for app stores.  Jay Sullivan, vice president of mobile at Mozilla put it like this:

As developers get more frustrated with quality assurance, the amount of handsets they have to buy, whether their security updates will get past the iPhone approval process… I think they’ll move to the web.

and like this:

In the interim period, apps will be very successful. Over time, the web will win because it always does.

Rollout of the Firefox Mobile browser looks a little slow though, with the initial launch only on Nokia and Android and Windows Mobile versions not coming until the New Year.

The other piece of news is that Android, which is much more ‘true web’ than its mobile OS competitors is fast gaining share.  This post on Comscore has a list of ‘Android gaining momentum’ facts, perhaps the most telling of which is that a survey of American consumers found that of those in the market for a smartphone 17% were considering an Android device versus 20% for an iPhone.  The overall Android market share remains small at 3.5% though.

In related news the iPhone has finally overtaken Windows Mobile for OS market share in the US, and the proliferation of Android platforms is starting to cause headaches for developers.

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