Forget the success of the iPhone AppStore --- the future of mobile applications is direct access via the Web rather than separate downloads. So says Google, and it's putting its money where its mouth is.
The Financial Times techblog reports that Vic Gundotra, Google Engineering vice president and developer evangelist, told the Mobilebeat conference in San Francisco that information and entertainment would be delivered via the Web in the future, not via downloadable software. According to the blog, Gundotra "claimed that even Google was not rich enough to support all of the different mobile platforms from Apple's AppStore to those of the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and the many variations of the Nokia platform." He is then quoted as saying:
What we clearly see happening is a move to incredibly powerful browsers.
Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning.We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that's where Google is investing.
Gundotra claims that Steve Jobs agrees with him. Here's what the Financial Times techblog says:
Mr. Gundotra said even Steve Jobs, Apples chief executive, had said "Build for the web," when the iPhone was launched, but the idea had met with resistance from developers at the time.
The timing was not right, he suggested, but "the rate of innovation in the browser [over the past 12 months] is surprising.""I think Steve really did understand that, over the long term, it would be the web, and I think thats how things will play out."
Of course, Google has a vested interest in the Web replacing phone-based applications, because if you're going to use the Web to get information, you'll be using a Google service. Still, I think Gundotra is right, and that it's only a matter of time before iPhone apps dwindle and the Web wins out on mobile devices.