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The asymmetric competition between Google and Apple app stores

In the latest version of Android, Google shifted from bitmaps to vector rendering for maps.  The shift is probably more a function of available processing power on the device than a strategic shift to position value on the device rather than in the cloud. Vector maps, which are much more efficient in terms of bandwidth and local storage, have been the choice for in-car navigators but Google has always been using bitmap tiles which are fetched from a server and delivered only if the device is using a data connection. The downside for vectors is that they require a bit more local processing power.

I doubt that Google’s move to vectors is part of a shift to more app-centered/edge-of-network strategy.

How is this relevant?

Google has been riding a wave of re-centralization of value toward the center of the network as broadband made the cloud feasible. Keep in mind that Microsoft rode a wave of de-centralization as value moved to the PC and away from the mainframe. As intelligence was pushed to the edge, Microsoft accrued value from enabling the edge as a locus of productivity. This is no small thing.

Then came apps.

The supernova that is the App Store illuminated the possibility that apps are perhaps a “pushback” on the center. Like all good disruptions this was unforeseen: Apple built the store and the apps sold; by the billions. Apple joined the world in a scramble to react. Something profound was happening, but the very brightness of this explosive growth blinds us to what is actually going on.

My hypothesis is that there is a tug-of-war going on between the mobile cloud and the device-at-the-edge. Both will become better and neither is good enough. Technology roadmaps point to both higher availability of local storage/processing power as well as faster, cheaper and more ubiquitous mobile broadband. So technology insight by itself is not enough to give us a clue to the outcome.

What I would focus on is what is more natural for the user.  Note that Twitter and Facebook both have better interfaces with their apps than they do with their browser interfaces. That and innovations in game interaction points out that apps are as much a disruption of UI metaphors as they are of the locus of power in the network. It would not surprise me if people end up spending a larger part of their lives tethered to device-enabled social media, “firing” the PC from the job of social interaction.

If we believe the app will grow as the preferred interface for the web (and I’m leaning in that direction) then the implications are potentially harmful to Google. Google does not “do” interfaces. Their strategic assumption has been that interfaces are commodities. The browser is the universal interface. Perhaps HTML5 will offer sustenance to the concept, but it’s not a panacea. Web apps have a long way to go to become competitive with hand-crafted app UIs. (While web apps have been possible for iPhone since its inception, developers vote en-masse for apps and almost zero popular web apps exist. Ditto for Flash-to-app interface ports.)

This brings us to focus on the asymmetry of business models.

the App Internet

What we end up with is the “app internet”: a potential disruption of the browser-as-interface and the re-integration of the user experience around the device. Because the iTunes store allows money to be attached to new interface innovations, developers follow and compete on better interfaces rather than on access to the back end.  The asymmetry ensues from the fact that by attaching profit to the point where the user touches the screen, Apple took the basis of competition for developers away from the cloud.

In other words, the point where the electrical charge of the human skin is detected is suddenly the exact location of value capture from mobile computing.

Of course, Google is responding, but since they did not focus on seamless and curated experiences, developers are not seeing returns for investment in interfaces at the touch point. As a consequence, Google apps developers seek ad revenues. In turn, this is a road that leads to less innovation in interfaces and more innovation in network-dependent services.

I sense a distinct asymmetry in app trajectories between the platforms due to core business model choices. Asymmetric competition causes the great fortunes to be made and great fortunes to be lost.

  • cjackson

    "As a consequence, Google apps developers seek ad revenues. In turn, this is a road that leads to less innovation in interfaces and more innovation in network-dependent services."

    Can you talk a little more about why this is? Looking at Angry Birds on Android, it seems like a case could be made that ad-supported apps could have a future.

    • RobDK

      Well, it would seem that Angry Birds on Android has not successed at all. See the developer blog, and you will find a long discussion as to why they are having nightmares from the fragmented SDK base with differing hardware and software configurations. Add to that the rampant piracy for paid versions…

      • cjackson

        Yes, plenty of problems, but they've also been making money hand over fist with the devices that are supported. Rumored to be about $1 million a month.
        http://erictric.com/2010/12/06/rovio-mobile-ceo-p

        I'd call that a success. This is the first case I've seen where an Android app developer makes a significant amount of money on an app. However, Horace's statement seems to indicate he doesn't believe ad-supported is a good model and I'm just curious to hear more about that angle.

      • Rob Scott

        They still made/make more money on iOS. The app was also popularized by iOS and its users. I might be wrong but I did not read that Horace thinks or does not believe that ad-supported is a good model, just that it has different priorities vs. native for sale apps.
        I have downloaded a lot of "apps" on the chrome web store, I think Google is going to do well, but if I was paying I would opt for native apps.

    • asymco

      I did not say that ad support has no future. It's a fine model for apps. My point is that it encourages innovation in a dimension that is different. If the app depends on the network then there is less incentive to implement innovation in local interfaces.

      The structure of the app store and what business model it encourages affects where investments by developers go.

      In another way: paid apps are going to evolve differently from ad-supported apps. In turn this will lead to divergent paths for the devices and platforms themselves.

      • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

        In essence, ad-based apps require a network. (Witness running Angry Birds on Airplane mode in Android – the ads are not functional).

        But network-based apps (whether local or entirely cloud-based) will tend to have different priorities in outcomes of user experience. That seems to be asymco's point.

        Hence, ad-supported app ecosystems – regardless of the platform (browser, mobile OS) – will have different dynamics than entirely locally-run apps. Apple's app-revenue system allows both, whereas Google (from conjectural evidence) can only seem to support the former.

      • ChriS

        But couldn't there also be MORE incentive for interface-innovation to gain if the application is ad-based, considering that each usage of the app will generate (potential) app-revenue?
        Versus a case where only the initial purchase creates revenue?

      • asymco

        So far the evidence seems to be pointing the other way. See also John Gruber's discussion here: http://daringfireball.net/2010/12/ios_android_app

      • ChriS

        Hm, true indeed.
        But on top (or beside) of all that, if Android and iPhone would be apartments, I'm not sure I would feel the urge to take my shoes off in both of them…

        I mean, in oppose to iOS, I don't feel that Android is giving such a cleaned and simplified impression that you feel the urge to make your app no less perfect than that.

        To me, Android sends more a "just wipe the junk off a chair and sit down" message than "take your shoes off and don't touch anything!!"

        But sometimes, cleaning up the apartment could do wonders to the behaviour of people coming in…although I don't expect this to happen anytime soon…

        Thx for the good chat
        ChriS

        P.S.: And sorry for that odd metaphor ;-)

      • raycote

        Is all this not just another instance of the old cliches " you get what you pay for" combined with "he who pays the piper call the tune".

        If the end users are willing to pay the freight the developers will optimizing the interface around their customers UI experience.

        If the advertisers are paying the freight the developers will naturally optimize the interface around the advertisers commercial capture ratio.

    • TomCF

      One successful application does not a market make. I'd like to see a distribution of app revenues on Android.

  • http://twitter.com/lantinian @lantinian

    The "App Internet" is the keyword here and the reason why a recent survey showed the Blackberry overtook iOS in US in Browser usage.
    (quote) Looking at Angry Birds on Android, it seems like a case could be made that ad-supported apps could have a future.(quote/)
    Angry Birds was developed for the iOS and only the tremendous success there earned the developers enough cash to be worth porting it for free to Android. I want to see how Tom Tom ports its $99 GPS map app to Android using adds…

  • TomCF

    I wonder if Google doesn't want any part of the UI of their platform, leaving that job entirely to the app developers (Android) and web sites (Chrome OS). I think this overestimates the developer community's ability to deliver a coherent and quality experience for the consumer. Though perhaps the idea is the apps and web sites will be "good enough" for devices that are commoditized, competing with the highly polished Apple experience sufficiently on price.

  • http://twitter.com/strandev @strandev

    "Of course, Google is responding, but since they did not focus on seamless and curated experiences, developers are not seeing returns for investment in interfaces at the touch point." This highlights one of the reasons why Android is a poor investment for third party developers.

  • AlleyGator

    To Google's credit I think they're trying to make this SAS-based Cloud App thing compete head-on with the de-centralized world. Look at Google Apps for Government, which has successfully won them contracts over Microsoft.

    It is obviously a strategy decision that browsers "can be" good enough, and they're developing heavily in the Chrome browser so that browsers "will be" good enough. That's the requirement for the possibility of customers hiring the cloud for all the important things they need to do.

    • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

      But will the networks be good enough? Unlike cloud apps, a smartphone is not necessarily constrained by the bandwidth/availability of network resources – it has processing power on its own.

      The Chromebook deal with Verizon – free scraps of data with no monthly contract – is very important. Verizon's 3G network itself, while not the fastest, is the most broadly spread. But what if network load begins to become a problem?

      Google's partnership with Verizon in the face of failure of network neutrality policy is pretty pivotal. Pinning their future on mobile cloud apps on lightweight devices wouldn't do any good if users were deterred by excessive payment, an unavailable network, or network practices that didn't give Google services the bandwidth they need to provide a semi-decent user experience over TCP/IP.

      • AlleyGator

        The networks are already good enough to do most things with the cloud, the major exception being streaming video.

        The networks are going to continue to add speed, and will continue to meter data to generate additional revenue. That will help fund yet more network improvements. Once data becomes a matter of price rather than being rationed out, there will be a market to expand data to drive revenues themselves. And with the expansion of LTE and other 4G technologies, you'll be able to use up your data faster than ever. Which will generate additional revenue faster than ever.

      • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

        Call me crazy, but I don't think cellular providers can keep revamping their antenna infrastructure every five years.

        In comparison to wireless, cable has essentially remained unchanged since 15 years ago. It hasn't required new deployments of equipment or infrastructure.

        I think the networks themselves are good enough to do any one thing, but with mass amounts of customers, Verizon's 3G is bandwidth limited and AT&T's 3G UMTS has known congestion problems with high demand in cities (oddly enough, the only places where AT&T 3G coverage is nearly ubiquitous).

        "4G" can't come fast enough, but AT&T still hasn't rolled out ubiquitous 3G, and Verizon's "4G" solution is nearly as sparsely deployed as AT&T's 3G. And in some places for AT&T, like San Francisco, the chief problem seems to be that people just don't *want* them to build extra towers.

        Are we to believe that Verizon will roll out a nationwide 4G network (which requires new equipment, not retrofitting to their old EVDO towers) faster than AT&T can finish building out its current 3G network?

        Part of Verizon's "ubiquitous" 3G is that it's really a retrofit onto old towers — they haven't expanded their 3G coverage, they've just converted antennas from one type to another. AT&T has had to roll-out new towers for 3G, and they've hit deployment bottlenecks – on 3G. Who's to say 4G won't have the same problem?

  • MattF

    You allude to the question of whether HTML5 really provides enough power for a universal interface. I think this question is quite fundamental. There's a real possibility that HTML5 will suffer the same sorts of systematic interface failings as Linux– typified by generic device drivers and the lack of an OS-level 'media' layer like Quicktime.

    People complain that Apple defines and controls the resources that apps may access, but the other side of the story is that these resources give developers access to the power of the local CPU and the GPU. It's a big difference, and I think it's a difference that will only get larger as time goes on.

    • asymco

      The technology may be adequate and useful but unless it has a business model, it tends to wither. At the same time kludgy and inefficient technology wins when it's wrapped with a powerful business model. Windows, Flash were both loathed even by their own companies but they remain resilient.

      Apps (via native SDKs) are suboptimal but fueled by revenues.

      • Kizedek

        I am thinking you mean "suboptimal" from the business model perspective you present in the article? That it's suboptimal that a developer has to choose where to concentrate his focus and resources — on his native iOS app with better chance of initial sale, or on one of the primarily ad-supported platforms that lacks a solid store?

        I wouldn't think you are saying that apps via native SDKs are themselves inherently suboptimal, versus some kind of universally deployable app, even if it were HTML5? Are you hinting that native iOS apps could be "kludgy and inefficient" in comparison, to say HTML5; but native iOS apps are successful because they benefit from a powerful business model just as Windows and Flash have?

        Ideally, i suppose one could argue that it would be nice, whichever platform I use, to be able to choose universally and equally from every mobile app out there. But I don't think of my present choice as suboptimal. On the contrary. As an iOS user, I guess i am not too concerned about the Products from a developer that has chosen to concentrate his efforts on Symbian or Android or Windows Phone 7. I don't particularly feel left out — though i can imagine those using Android might.

        Of course, i can use HTML 5 web apps, too. What we could be concluding therefore, is that everyone else besides Apple should just concede that they are hopelessly outclassed in their native SDKs, and should therefore just concentrate on delivering a better platform for web apps. Ironically, the best engine for mobile web expereince and mobile web apps appears to be Apple's own Webkit, which it is happy to give away to these other suboptimal platforms.

      • kizedek

        @horace
        wondered if you might have a response for the previous comment of mine. I should have addressed it to you before, in case that is how things come to your attention. Of course, you may not have the time or be inclined to answer, which is fine; just thought I would try again.

      • asymco

        Sorry, I've had a ton of comments to read (literally hundreds) and don't get to respond as much as I'd like.

        HTML5 is technically and business model suboptimal. On the technical side however it will get better. I am certain that HTML5 will be good enough for the majority of apps that users will want to consume. However, the business model may not get there. We are still early here but HTML5 "feels" very much like Java. The same theoretical potential but practical failure. This is opposed to the theoretical failures and practical potentials of Flash, Windows and Objective C.

        History is full of "kludges" that became iconic winners. The M-16 rifle for example or the F-4 Phantom jet. Or the Porsche 911. You can beat a successful kludge into submission and make it perform technical wonders, but it's hard to prop up an elegant loser.

  • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

    Google is trying to develop an equivalent to the app ecosystem, with web apps, embracing Flash and HTML5, and even a commercial ecosystem for browser-contained apps.

    But I think they are trying the shoe-horn the browser into a role it should not have. Operating systems were developed long ago and still developed today. It seems wasteful and unnecessary to reinvent the browser as an operating system – one that is network-bound and lacks the immediately of local applications – even if their ecosystem and Web Store aren't bad ideas in themselves.

    Even if Google were successful in emulating the Apple software distribution model with their Web App Store, I think it would not be as usable or capable as non-latency-bound interfaces.

    But is that what Google is trying to do? Are they trying to take Apple's ecosystem design and make it entirely browser-based, where Google's development skills are stronger? Or are they trying to do something else?

    And this still doesn't explain what their long-term plan is for Android and Chrome together. Is Google merely trying to hedge its bets by developing two different ecosystems at once, one on Apple's terms and one on its own terms? Remember back when, Google originally said that "Chrome was for tablets, Android for phones." Now it's even more muddled.

    • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

      Although it isn't explicitly mentioned in article, I think it is important to discuss the Android store and the Web store separately – at this point, it is not clear that these two disparate initiatives have the same goals at all, although I would agree that their foundation seems to be the ad-based app, which is Google's revenue tool of choice.

      • raycote

        You mean Googles revenue tool of necessity?

        They live or die on advertising scale enabled by a broad, lowest common denominator, network of hardware and software partners. The question is wether or not there is enough margin to keep those partners in line?

    • davel

      I do not think a network centric OS is a problem.

      In fact it is now viable with fat pipes.

      Google's interest and energy in creating a proper network based OS may be an issue, but not the idea of a change in architecture.

  • http://twitter.com/dutchtender @dutchtender

    there will be winners and losers in the changing business of wireless. but google won't be a loser. there will be plenty to go around, however. there are obvious ones. nokia, rimm are two of the largest. I prefer to focus on the obvious rather than the highly speculative. if google and android is a loser, it's obvious to practically no one.

  • Joe_Winfield_IL

    I think the apps vs. web apps debate perfectly encapsulates the fundamental difference between Apple and Google. Apple is the world's best retailer and consumer electronics maker. The company derives revenue through transactions involving direct payment from customers, and all innovations are in service to this traditional structure. This is why Apple is building such a sticky web with its iEcosystem. They keep growing the web, and flies (us customers) are unable to get free. Fortunately, they do a good enough job that very few ever want to break away.

    Google meanwhile, has no idea how to sell merchandise. Reference Andy Rubin's recent comments on the failure of Nexus One for proof of this assertion. The company makes nearly 100% of its profits from 3rd parties interested in reaching the Google user, and there is almost no transaction directly with the user. While Apple sees the user as the customer, Google sees the user as the product. The Google services are all designed around this reality, and this is the reason that the cloud is perfect for Google.

    It is also the reason that Google doesn't view any of the other mobile OSes as threats. Google wants Android to succeed, but will make money from all of mobile. Their per unit revenue will always be much lower than Apple, but they can capitalize on nearly every mobile device in the world if they play the cards right. As long as Google Maps and search are the default for the majority of users, Google really doesn't care about apps. The Android market isn't curated because Google doesn't care if the apps run well or are free of malware – as long as the user response isn't to change default search to Bing.

    • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

      I really don't think Apple's ecosystem is as insidious as the "sticky webs" metaphor seems to imply. It's like saying a customer of video games (another closed-system market) won't switch to an XBox because all they've ever bought is Nintendo stuff. [While valid as a customer loyalty argument, there is no coercion involved.] In contrast, it is literally impossible to avoid Google in web services.

      Agree on the second paragraph – if you build a business that practices business by advertising, that is what it will be good at. If the business is not based on selling products, then it won't be very effective at doing so.

      • Joe_Winfield_IL

        I didn't mean it to be insidious, but it's the best metaphor I could come up with. Analysts often cite the transactional nature of Apple's products as a weakness, stating that that Apple is reliant on maintaining its position on the cutting edge of technology in order to earn repeat business. My point is that with a good enough web, customers don't want to leave. I figured spider webs were a kinder, gentler metaphor than, say, a heroin addiction.

        Your video game comparison is a good one, and relevant as the 3 major console makers have finally realized that upgrading every 4 or 5 years actually hurts the business and lessens loyalty. The console maker is forced to re-justify its value to the installed customer base, as well as developers. Fortunately, iTunes and iOS can thrive and bring in new customers through constant upgrades without abandoning past sales.

  • http://twitter.com/BrianSHall @BrianSHall

    "Both will become better and neither is good enough" is a perfect description of the state of smartphones and the mobile cloud!

  • JP Chicago

    Imagine how Google distributes an ad-revenue based OS for free. Advertisers participate if the ad yields a net gain in profits. Google takes a commission for bringing buyer and seller together. However, any gains of the advertiser would be the result of Android users spending additional money, at a rate higher than the total mobile user base.

    In other words, Google makes money only if Android users spend money outside of the Apps themselves. And android advertisers are essentially competing with developers, for a finite set of earnings. Google and big advertisement win, while App developers do the heavy lifting, and end-users have to spend money supporting profits of advertised products, to propagate the cycle.

    Speaking of interfaces, ads take up valuable pixel space in a UI. At the site of the message, ads compete with the app itself.

  • Ziad Fazel

    Thank you, Horace. You put it very clearly: Apple is driving the "app" internet, and Google is driving the "browser" internet.

    Looking deeper into why this is so:
    – Apple curates the Apple Store with the working business model behind it for protecting the developers' intellectual property, while exposing their product to the largest market, and a revenue split that works for both
    – Apple's vertical integration allows apps to be developed for both OS and hardware
    – Apple has control over the ads developers can put into their applications
    – Google does not curate the Android Store, which has poor intellectual property protection, without an accepted revenue mechanism for developers. So it has to rely on the browser, and the advertising ties to search or framing the app, to deliver on its business model
    – Google has to focus on the browser for its interface as it has almost no control over hardware, so needs a lower denominator
    – Google does not control the ads in developer applications, so essentially relies on developers to be self-supported to drive traffic to Google's ads

  • http://twitter.com/aegisdesign @aegisdesign

    Vector based mapping requires very little CPU or GPU power.

    Case in point – Nokia's Ovi Maps which has been using vectors for years and runs on phones with 300Mhz CPUs and no GPU.

    Google's particular implementation of 3D buildings is probably the reason for increased CPU/GPU requirements as it looks like it produced the shadows in realtime unlike Nokia's 3D buildings which are simple texture maps with no shadows like in Google Earth.

    It's a pity you still can't download the entire vector map like you can on Ovi Maps but hey, maybe another couple of years and you'll be able to use Google Maps without a phone signal when lost.

  • http://twitter.com/peterme @peterme

    As someone who works in user experience, I was taken aback by this statement: "Note that Twitter and Facebook both have better interfaces with their apps than they do with their browser interfaces."

    • http://twitter.com/peterme @peterme

      [Oops. The rest of my statement got cut off. ]

      By what criteria are you judging the "betterness" of the app interfaces over the browser ones? You state it as a given, but it is not necessarily evident to me.

      • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

        It should be evident — no offense meant. The problem is the web experience itself. There is no content.

        On the iPod:
        1. Pull it out, turn it on.
        2. Hit the Twitter icon.
        3. Watch tweets.

        On my Mac:
        1. Open it up – restart from standby.
        2. Open Firefox or Safari (add 30 seconds if these are not already started).
        3. Type in, manually, "twitter.com".
        4. Watch tweets.

        It really is the entire device experience itself. One only takes ten seconds. The other takes itself at least a minute.

        As for Facebook, to be honest, it's a pain to use in any form, app or browser. But at least the app doesn't require me to use a browser and type an address.

      • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

        Argh, "no contest", sorry.

      • mr_ugly

        Your 4-point Mac OS sequence seems pretty spurious to me:
        1. If you set your Mac right — i.e. to avoid saving all ram to disc on sleep — then "open it up" is as quick as on an iOS device.
        2. If you don't already have your preferred browser running then you're either nuts or at least an extremely untypical user.
        3. Why type in a URL when you can use a bookmark, including one on the bookmarks bar? So there's no reason why it shouldn't be one click.
        4. (Well, I confess I can't find fault with that one…)

      • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

        In particular to your bookmarks argument, I haven't done this, and it's not due to lack of savviness. I consider that a waste of space. It just doesn't make sense to give every one of my favorite sites — twitter, Gmail, facebook – space in my bookmarks bar.

        I use bookmarks for things I've actually bookmarked, like test prep material for school, recent searches, my class schedule, or other things.

        But even if you have optimized it, are you really suggesting that pulling out an iPod and unlocking it has no net convenience over pulling out a five or six pound laptop and opening it? And for anything besides a very recent Windows PC, standby wasn't exactly a usable option – I still have friends in class who say "I can't do that standby thing. My Dell/HP always freezes when I open it back up."

        But the pocket device is just so much more effortless, I don't really care how "time optimized" the laptop becomes. Mouse interaction itself requires more focus than touch. And in firefox, the twitter website never approaches the smoothness of the iPhone app interaction anyway.

        My original arguments were time based, and you are correct, that can be changed. But it was not all-inclusive, and in fact there are other reasons that full desktop web-browsing is just inherently more inconvenient.

        For example, after I finished typing this, I had to get out of Firefox and open Safari. Why? Because I run Noscript in my Firefox, and for the life of me, I can't get Noscript to support this odd cross-site authentication that Twitter does for asymco.

        It's just a pain in the butt. I wish asymco had an app, since their mobile version doesn't support Twitter authentication at all, and it doesn't preserve reply hierarchies.

      • http://twitter.com/judsontwit @judsontwit

        By the by, Mac always resumes from sleep at the same speed, as far as I can tell.

        "RAM to disc" sleep is slow when going to sleep — but in return it helps make standby more worry free, as there's no risk of standby data loss if the power dies/battery runs out.

        The only time "Safe Sleep", as it is called, should ever be slow on resume, is if the power actually does die, and thus the mac has to reload from disc. But assuming no power failure occurs there shouldn't be any speed difference.

    • http://twitter.com/aegisdesign @aegisdesign

      Apps written for phones generally are better, richer and faster to use than web based interfaces.

      I'll use the twitter website about once a week at most and not usually out of choice as opposed to Gravity on my Nokia which is easily 10 times better because of a faster UI, integration with the camera and nice UI elements like flickable scrolling. Plus I think it's just more intimate than a web page. Even without the phone handy, I'll use Tweetie on my Mac instead of twitter.com.

      Facebook, well, I just don't do facebook because it's a confusing mess of a UI on the web. The various phone based clients are better – less crap, no adverts – but then I just don't see the point in facebook when twitter is more concise and less of a time sucker.

    • asymco

      This is a matter of opinion, of course. However I would point out that the new Twitter interface is strongly copied from the Twitter iPad / iPhone experience. I would also add that the Flipboard interface for social media is superb for a large portion of the population (i.e. a magazine concept). Apple has just given accolades to this app.

      The experiments in social media interaction are being run on devices, not on browsers. In fact, browsers are being embedded inside apps to render linked content. The focus of the interaction is an app. Quite a powerful shift in my opinion.

      Personally, I find the fb experience on a computer baffling but clear on a device.

  • FalKirk

    @peteme: Don't get hung up on the specific examples. The point that they are trying to make is that apps can provide a superior experience to a full blow browser. I am not a constant user of the Twitter and Facebook Apps mentioned above, but I have often read comments from people who say they prefer to use the apps on their phone over full blown web interfaces available on their computers. As an experiment, I decided to review the apps on my phone and see if there were apps that I would prefer to use even if I had my computer up and on the internet. Here are a few that I found: Google Search (because of the voice recognition feature); my banking app; and Flixster for looking up movies. I hope that these few examples help to clarify things.

  • gctwnl

    I kind of liked Joe WInfield's comment: Google sees the user as the product and Apple sees the user as the customer. This is true for Google as an ad-selling company.

    Partly, publishers are also like this. They see their subscribers not only as clients but also as products to sell to advertisers. Hence the conflict between Apple and the subscribers on user data?

    BTW: asymco = asymmetric competition?

  • unhinged

    "Apple built the store and the apps sold; by the billions. Apple joined the world in a scramble to react." (fifth paragraph).

    I'm thinking this is meant to be "Google joined the world in a scramble to react."

    • Yowsers

      I would agree, but I kinda like the idea of what it means that Apple was scrambling, too.

      From a certain angle, they did as well. I thinking from the "Whoah, what have we done now?" angle. And witness the from-scratch scramble to get a review and approval system going, setting up and writing what are acceptable parameters, and so on.

      I also suspect they were nearly as surprised at the variety and the depth of the apps as anyone else.

      • dchu220

        Yes it's true. Even Apple can be caught off guard by their success.

    • asymco

      They both did. Apple was scrambling even before Google because they had to ramp up their review processes and they had to also tweak the rules. I think Apple was quite surprised by the level of success in the App store.

  • calebcar

    It's as if google has a virtual monopoly and Apple had a virtual monopoly on motion picture receipts and everyone on the sideline is debating who's winning. Both are. There may be some turf battles, but as of now regardless of the bickering of their CEO's neither has much interest in the other's markets and neither poses a serious threat to the other. Unless the other company or someone else comes up with a new and different disruptive threat both companies have a very bright future.

  • calebcar

    Try again
    It's as if google has a virtual monopoly ON ALL TELEVISION ADVERTISING and Apple had a virtual monopoly on ALL motion picture receipts and everyone on the sideline is debating who's winning. Both are. There may be some turf battles, but as of now regardless of the bickering of their CEO's neither has much interest in the other's markets and neither poses a serious threat to the other. Unless the other company or someone else comes up with a new and different disruptive threat both companies have a very bright future.

    • Russell

      Agree with your example. We are currently in a rising tide that is lifting all the boats that are in a good competitive postion.

  • davel

    In my short experience with apps I do not find anything fundamentally lacking in its concept per se.

    In fact it echos the old tug of war between a powerful client vs powerful server architecture in the client/server model.

    There are a number of information centers I like to follow and in its limited life I find the current web/browser model to be more flexible and robust. The problem I find is not technology but political and execution.

    Media companies seem to want to take advantage of the opportunities the web offers but are afraid of killing their current revenue model. So of the apps I have used from cnbc,mktwatch,ny times, bloomberg, etc I find all to be inferior to the user experience the current web has to offer. I feel that is by design and possibly limited budget rather than technology. iOS has everything necessary to build a great experience. So far I have not found an app that is better than the website.

    Of the above apps I have used the one from cnbc is the best.

  • http://twitter.com/dpitkin @dpitkin

    I think there also is a element of fashion and macro trends that plays a part in design and decision making today. The question I have is what is the downside to the new "app internet" and I don't think there really is one, what if you consider iOS or Android the new more powerful "browser" and the stores as simply the delivery mechanism for a "web page" with a built in payment mechanism, I don't see a lot of downsides to it. Great post.

  • Seecum

    There are two big points which need to be raised.
    1. Generally speaking good apps talk to API’s within the web service, these API’s are generally lightweight compared to a fully rendered web page. Being light weight means that there is less traffic, this is particularly important in the mobile space where you can’t always have full 4g or whatever the best possible wireless connection is in your area. Having to render a full web page (often with advertising that the user doesn’t want) == more bandwidth. Simple XML feeds can easily be compressed which can give you high content with a low bandwidth footprint. This will become even more apparent as unlimited mobile plans start to disappear.
    2. the mobile browsers while being ‘good’ are still not that great. We are still in the second generation of mobile browsers and I think there is a long way to go in terms of features/functionality etc. Just look at how Firefox opened up the browser market by having the flexibility of a plugin architecture. While there are browsers (at least for android) which have plugin architectures they are still a long way off something that is wildly usable.