Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Apps. Confusion as much as with the pc

Scripting News: Why apps are not the future

There's an article raging over the internet, written by Dave Winer where he makes the argument that apps are not the future. His reasoning being that linking is something that is lacking from apps making them silos or buildings rather than an something as open as the web.

Firstly I have a bit of an issue with the definition of linking. But in the case of traversing and sharing information from silo to silo thus bridging the gap between them, I think we are getting there. Android in particular has done this excellently. A good example would be how I bogged this article. I simply long pressed the url on my browser (also an app mind you) and pressed share on the menu and shared it to Blogger. As far as linking goes where linking is passing information from one app to another I really do think we are getting there. But maybe Dave's argument goes deeper. And maybe only a medium which is controlled by open standards will win against individual mobile OS's. But I have a problem with this idea as well.

Mobile OS's need to open up their APIs first

How do you access the rich features of the smartphone if the operating system doesn't provide a unified open way of accessing them? Take a look at android and iOS and try and find out how you would take a photo through a web interface on the phone. You'd be better off encapsulating the mobile website within an app and then accessing the camera from there.

Offline persistence is a big win for apps

The beauty of mobile apps is that I can switch my 3g on for a few seconds, let my apps run an update course and then switch the 3g off leaving me with a new set of rich data to browse offline. This is not really possible with a website since on a mobile device, memory is limited and cached pages need to be refreshed when you make the tab it's encapsulated in visible again. Your best solution would be always on 3g.

But always on 3g is battery intense

Terribly so. Which leads to a far more complex issue than just apps vs the open web. To have websites work on mobile devices over apps you are going to be cranking out the 3g juice and frankly speaking, battery life isn't that good yet. While I hope that gets sorted soon I wouldn't hold my breath if I was you.

The work around to this would be to do what apps do. Offline data storage. Write directly to the phone memory and have your own pockets of data ready. So when I open Facebook.com it's not going to the internet to load those resources like the header bar and icons etc. Those will be ready along with my last update of the news feed which I can browse. But if the website can do all of that,

What is an app really?

Here comes the biggest issue. Linking is basically a functionality. It's not a property that can belong only to the web. It's something that's been implemented only by the web though. Similarly all those other things such as offline persistence of data also come under functionality. So assuming a website implements all of that, isn't the website then an app too?

This is the same problem I have with people using the buzz phrase, 'post pc era'. What utter rubbish. There is no post pc era. The form factor has changed but the personal computer remains. The day our body becomes the machine where data is stored and can be deleted simply within our brains and our eyes become the camera and electro magnetic implants become our gps, that'll be the post pc era. As long as there's a device we use external from our physical selves to do our everyday work stuff, the pc will remain. Just not in the same form factor as 10 years ago. 

And just like that, apps will evolve conceptually before being implemented. Battery life will increase, 4g coverage will become more comprehensive so my battery isn't drained. Javascript execution via the mobile device will become faster making use of the inevitable graphic cores for smoother rendering thus removing the concept of installing an app. But the app, will remain. Changing and evolving in terms of form factor but never dying. I'm sorry Dave. But apps are, the future.

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