What has been one of the biggest
problems facing the growth of mobile smart phones within the enterprise and for
business use in general? That's easy-it's the dearth of good applications
available to run on these devices and the fact that many of the good applications
that do exist have been tied to one platform or carrier.
For years, developers have bemoaned
the fact that to have any chance of having a popular mobile application, they
must spend the considerable time and resources to develop for multiple platforms
and devices. In addition, even after doing this, they face the cost and the
whims of the major carriers, which decide which applications they will offer
Outside of the carriers, nearly everyone
understands that this system is broken, with the only benefit being the example
it provides for proponents of net neutrality (as in, imagine what it would be
like if you couldn't use eBay if your ISP was Verizon, or if only AT&T subscribers
could access Google).
A ray of light in the darkness of mobile
applications first appeared with the launch of the iPhone and other devices
that provided good Web experiences. This made it possible for some developers
to bypass the carriers entirely by developing their applications for the mobile
Web. However, this wasn't a solution for all mobile developers, and it comes
with its own limitations, such as lack of offline support.
It was the launch of the Apple App
Store this year that truly showed what can happen when users are given some
choice around finding applications for their mobile phones. By nearly any
measure, this App Store has been a success, providing a number of application
options for iPhone users, enough to make users of other phones extremely
However, the Apple App Store isn't
perfect-it is still tied to one device and one carrier and still has control
over the developers and applications that it allows. It will be the rise of the
Google Android devices that could spur real openness in mobile applications.
The Android Market will, like the
Apple App Store, make it simple for users to find applications for their devices.
However, this will potentially be across any device that runs Android on any carrier.
Also, it will include free and open-source applications as well as commercial
applications and limited hurdles for developers.
As these application stores gain traction,
I expect that it will force other mobile OS vendors as well as the carriers to
offer similarly open application markets for their devices.
With these developments, we should
finally start to see in 2009 some of the explosion in mobile applications that
we've been expecting for years, and we will take another step toward a mobile Web
that offers some of the same freedoms of choice that the current Web does.