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Are Mobile Apps a Temporary Fad? Experts Say Andreessen is Wrong

There is a big debate raging right now over the future of native apps. In a recent interview with Wired, investor and web pioneer Marc Andreessen said, “Mobile apps on platforms like iOS and Android are a temporary step along the way toward the full mobile web.” Essentially, he’s calling native mobile apps temporary. I was intrigued by this and decided to ask a few experts for their opinions on the matter.

“I agree with this comment, and predict that it will take 4-5 years until the mobile web will be bigger than the app economy,” said Cyriac Roeding, CEO and Co-Founder of shopkick. Only one other person I asked actually agreed with Andreessen and that person was the VP for Marketing and Product Management for popular travel companion TripIt. Their statement is below.

One person I asked was so adamant that Marc was wrong that he gave us an entire post’s worth of refutation which you can find here: Why Marc Andreessen is Wrong About Mobile Apps Being a Fad. He says, “Regardless of the merits of remote apps as an idea, it’s just not realistic for mobile devices.”

Marc certainly has some clout when it comes to technology. For the uninitiated, he brought us Mosaic, the world’s first widely-used web browser and co-founded Netscape and Ning. He now sits on the boards of Facebook, eBay and HP (among others). So, when he says something, you’ve definitely got to give it some serious consideration.

So, readers, what do you think? This is a big issue that will effect nearly everyone in the developed world (from developers to end users). Are mobile apps a temporary fad? Chime in with a comment to let us know what you think.

What Andreessen Forgot: The Internet Isn’t Ubiquitous

Contributed by: Matt Gallagher, Mac/iOS application developer and author of CocoaWithLove.com

Marc Andreessen is choosing to forget: many people use their mobile devices when they can’t access the internet, many people don’t want to use their expensive data quota and many device features simply can’t be accessed from inside a web client–within these domains, native applications cannot be replaced. For applications that must use network data and don’t need to use any special device features, making a native app should already be a decision that is reached after a cost-benefit analysis. Of course, future performance increases will alter that cost-benefit analysis but native apps will always offer the highest quality experience for apps that need it.

Hardly Temporary

Contributed by: Nik Fletcher, product manager, Realmac Software

The movement toward native apps is simply a result of the much faster evolution of the technology. Unlike the web, where there are set proposals and standards, native platforms can change much quicker. There will always be one technology ahead of the other (native or web); right now native comes out on top. The speed of iteration and progress is so noticeable that we’re already starting to approach areas where native apps take the best of the web (network connectivity) and provide a seamless native experience—iCloud, for example. Call it a ‘temporary step’ if you like, but it’s hardly temporary if it lasts for a substantial amount of time!

Web Apps Have Inferior User Experiences

Contributed by: John Myers, President, Tack

The fundamental technologies web applications are based on have never been capable of delivering the same user experience a native app can. For some applications this doesn’t matter so much, and you can do more today than ever before with a web application, but the really great stuff has and will continue to be on native apps. At Tack we design and develop for both, and most of the problems we solve for clients require a native solution. I don’t expect this will change anytime soon.

Even If Bandwidth Was Free…

Contributed by: Ray Wenderlich, administrator of raywenderlich.com, a popular iOS tutorial blog

Even if network bandwidth was free, I believe device-specific apps would still play a big role. Users have grown to want apps that are optimized for their devices, both in terms of looks, interactions, and the standard controls/style. They also want apps that use their device’s proprietary technologies and infrastructure, such as auto-rotation, animation, iCloud, Game Center, or In-App Purchases. So just like there’s still an important role for Windows and Mac apps, there will still be a big role for iOS and Android apps in the future.

Marc is Right!

Contributed by: Nancy Ramamurthi, VP of Marketing and Product Management for TripIt

We believe Marc’s prediction for the future is right, but as he notes–may take a very long time. Given this reality, TripIt’s mobile technology strategy takes advantage of today’s dominant app standards, iOS and Android, while having them operate as consumers of our own open web API. This strategy provides the best possible user experience for TripIt apps given existing hardware and network speed capabilities, with the flexibility of having the data live in the cloud. As change and innovation occurs, we’ll be ready to easily adapt.

EditorAre Mobile Apps a Temporary Fad? Experts Say Andreessen is Wrong