The increased investment in iPhone applications by media and entertainment companies last year helped the mobile industry move forward quickly. The innovations that came with the more than 30,000 iPhone and iPod apps have most definitely attracted many new mobile content consumers. So what’s next? Are we about to see Apple dominate the mobile content world by leveraging the most successful mobile content ecosystem forever? How does any mobile device provide access to the broadest array of high quality content quickly? How does the mobile user share information with friends instantly? How do users of computers, mobile devices and entertainment consoles all share the information on the Internet to make their lives easier and more interesting? The answer to all these questions: the web browser. I didn’t like the mobile operator paid content ecosystems for ringtones and games and didn’t like the walled gardens of early mobile internet. So naturally the iPhone app store is nothing new from that perspective. It is great for the app publishers at first because it provides a manageable distribution channel. But the much repeated history of this type of mobile content distribution is a mobile marketing nightmare. It has taken a while but we’re now at the dawn of what could become the most significant technical evolution mobile devices have seen. It is WebOS, Webkit with SQLLite, GEARS, Safari, and Opera Mobile. This hodge-podge of terms and brands has been around for awhile and are indeed the future-- even though they aren't known under any one brand. What all these products have in common is that they are all working towards converging into a RIA (Rich Internet Application) standard, HTML 5. Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, Apple, Google and several others seem to be committed to supporting the HTML 5 standard which will make mobile web applications a lot more capable and significantly faster. A good example is Google who re-launched Gmail on iPhones with HTML5 capability. The drawbacks of the typical web browser on mobile devices is that they don’t work without a network connection, they don’t provide persistent storage, and they don’t tie into the device’s APIs well. The next generation of mobile devices is about to fix that with HTML 5. It will be a step towards platform independence of the advanced mobile web application and will narrow the feature gap between the downloadable application (like those in the iTunes App Store) and web applications which are generally accessible for free via the mobile web browser. Content publishers can make great mobile application functionality available outside of a closed ecosystem and with the scalable advertisement supported business model as a recurring revenue opportunity.
14 Apr 2009 - Xavier Facon