Apps 101 Striking the middle ground: How consumers and ...

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The unabated growth of apps has been
greatly fueled by the fact that consumers
increasingly own multiple devices—using a
smartphone in transit, a laptop at work, and
a tablet during leisure time at home. As they
begin to spread their computing activities
across all of their devices, they want each
to offer the same content and access as the
others in a seamless fashion.
But fragmentation in the mobile device
market makes this seamless experience
difficult to implement. Apple, Google, and
Microsoft each use a different operating
system and developers have to build and
maintain apps or each of these platforms
separately. Add tablets to the mix, and
it’s obvious why developers are finding
it difficult to keep pace. This is why the
concept of ‘web-centricity’ is widely touted
to drive the future of apps.
Web-centricity is an environment where
mobile services and applications run on
open and standardized cross-platform web
technologies like HTML, JavaScript and
CSS. In simple terms, ‘web apps’—those
based on web standards—can be built once
and deployed across various devices with
little modification.
The concept of such apps is not new; in fact,
Apple debuted its app store in 2007 before
realizing the technology was not ripe for
mainstream adoption. But emerging web
standards led by HTML5 are expected to
Apps 101
Striking the middle ground: How consumers and
evolving technology will change the world of apps
Consumer and Shopper Insights
September 2011
By Vaneet Aggarwal
Video
Websites
Social media
Handset/tablet
PC
TV
B
R
O
W
S
E
R
SOURCE: McKinsey, Gartner, Team analysis
Exhibit 1:
What web-centricity looks like
Just a few years ago, the word “app” wasn’t even in the lexicon. Now, apps rule mobile
computing, with hundreds of thousands available and millions downloaded daily for
use in smartphones, PCs, and tablets (another new word). App stores offering “native
apps,”—that is, applications that are designed specifically for a device operating system
like Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android—have now become the front and center of how
content is consumed.
make it possible for high-quality, feature-
rich applications to be delivered via the
web. When that happens, consumers will
have reason to prefer accessing video,
social media, and other information
through a web app, rather than through
native apps.
Top industry players like Apple, Google,
Microsoft and Facebook have pledged
support for HTML5 and are readying
infrastructure and services for web-based
content delivery. Google’s Chrome OS is
designed to work exclusively with web
apps. Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8
OS will provide support for apps based
on latest web standards. Apple, though
focusing on native apps, has invested
deeply in cloud infrastructure in a bid to
be prepared for whatever happens next.
So how will apps evolve? Over the next
couple of years, both web and native
apps will grow side by side, with the
latter continuing to dominate. Hybrid
apps, which combine the broad support
of web-based apps with the richer
features of native apps, will provide a
satisfactory middle ground till the time
web technologies become fully capable.
By 2015, Gartner Research estimates that
60% of enterprise and 40% of consumer
mobile apps could be delivered as web
apps. Apps with lower hardware resource
requirements, such as news, weather,
and social networking, will migrate
more quickly while graphics-intensive
and time-critical applications, such as
hardcore gaming, will continue to be
delivered via native apps.
Consumers love the fast and immersive
user experience of native apps and are
increasingly demanding the cross-
platform flexibility provided by their
web counterparts. It would be up to the
developers to choose the best available
technology to provide high-performance
apps to serve the biggest possible
audience.
http://csi.mckinsey.com
Vaneet Aggarwal
is a research analyst
in McKinsey’s Gurgaon, India office.
Propensity of web vs. native application to be developed
SOURCE: McKinsey, Team analysis
Business model preference
NativeWeb
Web
Native
Performance preference
Finance
News
Reference
Social networking
Sports
Weather
Lifestyle Medical
Travel
Music
Entertainment
Productivity
Casual gaming
Education
Health/Fitness
Lower hardware resource
requirement; app based
on cloud based content
Hardcore gaming
Business
Photography Utilities
Books
Navigation
Resource/graphic intensive
apps requiring higher
hardware capabilities;
Time/Mission critical jobs
Exhibit 2:
Future evolution of apps