Mobilize: What’s the Future of Mobile Apps?

How do cell phone users want to get their mobile applications, how do mobile developers want to deliver them, and what’s the future? Web or native, preloaded or installed, at a centralized app store or a distributed model, bundled or installed, offered by a company or a consortium, and open or closed?

OK, so the non-controversial answer is a combo of all these things, but the conclusion of the debates, including audience input, was that we want: web apps, centralized, installed, offered by a company, and open. Here are some interesting tidbits from the discussion:

Web or Native Mobile Applications:

Gary Kovacs, Adobe: There are 2.2 billion to 2.5 billion things connected to the Internet, and the bulk of that comes from non-PCs. The lines between browser and stand-alone apps is blurring — browser OEMs don’t want that distinction anymore. Over the next 2 to 3 years that line will blur even more and the web will win out.

John O’Rourke, Microsoft: There are different horses for different courses — both richer and lighter weight solutions.

Jerry Panagrossi, Symbian: There will be a range of applications that will require different options, some will use Flash and there is a huge developer community around Flash.

Where do you want to get your apps? A centralized store or a distributed model?

Jerry, Symbian: We don’t think a single entity should control app stores.

Jason, Qualcomm: I’ve seen major operators that will be coming out with services (web video-type services) that are opening and will provide open video access. There are methods to do this and adopt Internet-type models.

How will we get our apps? Bundled vs. Installed Applications:

Jason Kenagy, Qualcomm: The vast majority will continue to be preloaded, preinstalled applications.

Morgan, LiMo: The take-up of downloadable applications has been astonishingly slow so far. But it’s starting to be taken up. This area is now beginning to move into rapid change, and I would say in one and half to three years it will start to change.

Consortium vs. The Company Model:

Morgan, LiMo Foundation: We decided right away to bring forth a consortium model and not a single company model. The industry has already answered this answer. Since LiMo was announced, Google announced an intention to follow this path and Nokia announced a similar intention as well. But are all consortiums the same? LiMo was designed to do one thing only: to provide the handset operating system. We have to lift the hood on these consortiums; where tech is coming from and how decisions are made. What was the purpose behind the consortium and how was it set up?

Open vs. Closed Model?:

Jerry, Symbian: There are places for both models. In the far right of the open argument, they want all software to be open source, but the reality is that companies need to pay real employees and its not easy to cook up new business models. Though for open source there are so many eyeballs looking at the code. Clearly there are pros and cons of the approaches. Symbian OS will be made open source next year.

Morgan, LiMo: On the open vs. closed question, It became clear two years ago that closed technology was serving the mobile industry very badly. It was based on that crisis that LiMo was founded.