A recent blog posed the interesting question of whether we need an app for every mobile web site out there. The obvious answer is of course no, but judging from what is going on in the world of Apps right now it looks like the answer is yes. After all, what other way do you have to get your mobile web site onto the icon deck of the iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Symbian smart phones? You simply have to turn it into a colorful icon and submit it to your App store of choice – or all of them for that matter. This ‘battle for icon space’ has created an interesting world of bookmarks posing as apps with colorful icons. I for one am interested to find out how many of the purported 250,000 iPhone apps are simply bookmarks with an icon.
Is there anything wrong with this trend? Well, it kind of defeats the purpose of the 'available anywhere to anyone' mobile web and the tools we have for explore, search and browse for mobile web sites and content we are interested in. If this trend continues we will need an app browser to explore, search and browse the mobile app space. And we will need separate ones for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Symbian. The problem with this scenario is that it replaces the open world of the mobile web with proprietary silos of apps.
What is really needed is a user interface that merges the icon space of today’s phone deck app launchers with the capabilities of the web browser/search function. A user interface where a web site or result can be turned into an icon and placed on the phone app deck. A good name for such a user interface is a mobile web/app launcher that creates a user experience where apps and sites are treated the same. Do mobile web/app launchers exist? Yes, but more about that in a later blog.