Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The App-Less Smartphone

Last week, I went to a Business Marketing Association event here in New York where a panel discussed the future of B2B marketing in the mobile space. While the crux of the argument is that mobile B2B is real and that we can get good data to use to serve ads, that wasn’t really the most interesting thing I learned that day.

What really interested me that morning was a glimpse into the not-so-distant future, when a few of the panelists mentioned that apps will not be that important as the browsers improve on smartphones. The topic was quickly changed, but that got me thinking for the rest of the weekend what that was all about.

So here’s what I came up with: 4G will change everything.

The apps on your smartphone right now are not that complex, and most of the content – whether a game, pizza-ordering app or translator – doesn’t take up that much space on your phone compared to your photos and music. Everything that’s on your phone can easily be run on a web page when accessed by a computer with a broadband connetion. 4G is a heck of a lot faster than 3G, so much more in fact that all that web based content will be easily accessible (at least in theory). Therefore, most of us smartphone users will really have more of a homepage with links to our favorites than a home-screen with a bunch of apps.

What will this do for marketers?

Technically, it will make the world a better place for marketers and developers. Today, developers have to worry about the differences in programming languages in the different phone operating systems. This raises the cost for everyone. A completely web-based smartphone system will continue to bring the cost of mobile advertising down.

In addition, marketers will be able to have greater access to phones in that apps generated to promote specific products and services will no longer have to go through the approval process of places like the Apple App store. Of course, this is a double edged sword for the consumers because it eliminates an integral element of quality control. Say what you want about Apple, but at least there is a base level for apps.

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