Thoughts on Native Mobile Apps v Mobile Web Apps

Carlo gave a nice summary yesterday of the state of play of Native Mobile Apps (like JME), as opposed to developing for the mobile web, quoting recent deep thoughts by luminaries in the mobosphere such as Michael Mace, Mike Rowehl and Dean Bubley.

If you’re a regular reader of MobHappy, you’ll know that this is a subject dear to my heart and one which I’ve written about on numerous occasions. My take is that JME is basically broken, almost to the point of being unusable for developers, with the porting taking a ridiculous amount of time and energy.

But as my fellow mobilists point out, sometimes we need the functionality offered by an application and if that’s the case, we need to take a deep breath and plunge in, even if we know it’s going to be absurdly painful.

But, perhaps there is a middle way, Grasshopper.

One of the basic issues with native mobile apps is actually a marketing problem. Loads of people download applications – games and instant messaging apps get downloaded in their millions. Not to mention Opera Mini and Google Maps. What actually happens is that people don’t download an application if they don’t really understand what it does or why they would benefit from it. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t understand it once they have it on their phone, just that it might be difficult to communicate in one snappy line of copy.

So the middle way, is actually to develop for both environments. The mobile web (perhaps with limited functionality) becomes your market entry product – a way to get potential users to try your product. A lite version, if you like. Then when they understand just how cool and froody the thing is, they might be ready to upgrade to a power user and download the fully functional, all-singing-all-dancing JME application.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not turning into an apologist for Sun’s JME. Those guys had the world in their hands and blew it. I pray that someone comes up with a better product and takes the game away from them. Or that they finally put their own house in order, but I don’t see any sign of that happening soon.

But for all the developers out there, consider the middle way. It’s an easy way to trial your great product, while allowing your fan-base to get the true experience when they’ve sampled its delights.

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