Browsers vs. native apps: Vic Gundotra’s comments – Ecosystems, HTML5 and Long tail ..

Vic Gundotra of Google raises the perennial question of Browser vs. Native apps.

To me, The question has always been: Who can create a viable ecosystem for third party developers? And specifically, can Google create a viable ecosystem around browser apps which the customers will like?

As regards creating ecosystems for NON browser apps ..

Apple can(and did!) – iPhone

Google tried(and could not so far) Android app store

Nokia also tried(and is still trying it) – Ovi

The Google comments(Vic Gundotra at mobilebeat) – are to do with html5

The real qs is: Can Google(or anyone) create an ecosystem around html5?

Creating an ecosystem in the mobile domain is hard.

The questions are:

a) what is the business model for the carriers?

b) What is the business model for the developers

c) What is the value proposition for the customers?

d) What is the business model for the device?

Note that the debate (as it is discussed today) is largely about LONG TAIL apps(since long tail apps can be most easily deployed on the appstore). The question is not about services vs. appstores(since services can be deployed at many other points in the device/network)

So, with that perspective

a) customers benefit from long tail apps since it suits their specific needs best

b) developers need a viable ecosystem for long tail apps (including device discovery and payment models)

c) Devices can leverage their own brand – leverage the carrier’s brand depending on strategy and use appstores for differentiation

d) carriers – can benefit by deploying long tail apps assuming that they can create a viable ecosystem(either on their own or with a partnership)

So, the question comes down to – Can Google create a viable ecosystem for HTML5(web) apps leveraging the Web?

To do so, it has to do complete two missing links in the current ecosystem

a) Discovery and

b) Billing

so, for HTML5

a) Can we have a web based application discovery (both on the Web and on mobile?)

b) Can we have billing through the Web?

The answer to both seems to be Yes.

However, Can WEB apps be easily discovered from the mobile device(ideally from the first screen) – Remember, the iPhone has set a high bar for the customers – you would need AT LEAST iPhone functionality and ideally beyond. Hence, device discovery is important

The iPhone does not do many NEW things.

It simply brings many existing things together in a simple ecosystem for the customers

So, can we have discovery and one click payment for web apps on the device from the first screen?

There is a whole move(not just from Google) to create a Web OS

The Web OS + Cloud + HTML5? Can that work for mobile? Possibly – but still some way to go especially on the device side

So, if somehow Google(or someone else) would get on device discovery and payment for Web apps then this would work very well for web apps

But the question is not technological. It is one of ecosystem creation

One thing we have to say about Google, Google is committed to the Web and the Mobile Web. It is prepared to take the leadership in areas like HTML5(where it so lacked from the W3c) and run with it.

That can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole


@eortiz says: We could use a desktop/web-based interface to easily filter, search, select and push applications to the phone

I agree .. that would be fascinating and PRO web .. it could also work well.

As an extension, could work via a Cloud(not just desktop)


  1. Device discovery is quite straightforward. You simply have the device transmit the information as part of the HTTP request being made to the web server.
    HTML 5 has some advantages but is not fully supported on all the mobile browsers and is certainly not backwards compatible with existing mobile browsers.
    There are free solutions out there that solve this problem and will support HTML5.
    BTW Vic is correct – the future is mobile web apps in the browser. The sticky question is how.