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POV: Can mobile apps affect the mobile browser market?

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | December 02, 2010
Many websites - available as mobile applications - can be accessed on mobile phones without opening the mobile web browser. Will this hurt the market share of mobile web browsers?

The way 'content' is consumed on mobile devices is undergoing a shift. Earlier, the content -available mainly in the mobile website format - was retrieved from the Internet and viewed on mobile web browsers. Now, the content of various websites (such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Facebook, Twitter and Orkut) can be pulled from the Internet and consumed through mobile applications, instead of mobile web browsers. Will this shift affect the market share of mobile web browsers?

Guneet Singh
Ex-director and co-Founder, DealsandYou

There is no need to announce the death of the mobile internet browser yet. Most mobile applications provide significantly faster and superior experience to all the things we want to do regularly with the internet. A significant part of mobile internet however, is about discovery and casual surfing for which a consumer won't go through the effort of installing an application.

As phones get smarter, screens larger and data costs lower, internet access from the mobile phone is poised to overtake that from the PC and bring in more first-time internet users, who will explore the web before deciding what they want to do regularly. Mobile browser users are going to grow as will the total browser minutes. But the minutes per user will fall as users start installing more and more apps.

Mrunmaiy Abroal
Communications Manager (India), Opera Software

With the advent of smart phones, we have seen an increasing interest in application downloads. But apart from four or five favourite applications, the others aren't used more than once. The internet browser is here to stay.

The one thing that will change is the way browsers will work. Opera has worked on making browsers available for phones, PC, TVs, gaming consoles and anything that has an on and off switch. In some of these places you will not be able to notice it is a browser - the user interface looks different from that of a browser.

We come across applications that are created for a particular platform. Going ahead, developers will find it more effective to develop apps using web technologies, because it will allow them to reach more people and not restrict their work to any one platform.

As more people start using smart-phones, the demand for such web-based apps will rise, as will the market share of mobile internet browsers.

Sanjay Vijaykumar
Chief executive officer, Mobme

A focussed application works much better than an arcane web address that people have to manually navigate to. Apps avoid the interface that mobile browsers add, have less distracting advertisements and fit in much better with user expectations. As a result, mobile browser usage could decrease greatly.

Mobile browsers try to adapt websites to a smaller screen. They succeed at times, but often fail when, flash-heavy websites or text-heavy pages can't be easily formatted for a smaller screen. Apps sidestep this problem by virtue of the fact that they've been developed for a particular phone or platform.

Mobile advertising is set to change too. When more platforms come bundled with ad solutions, custom ads might decrease or disappear entirely.

Kushal Sanghvi
Executive Director, StratosHear Technologies

The mobile applications market will continue to grow but will not overtake that for mobile browsers.

The reasons why apps will not be hugely famous in India are:

a) Growth for mobile phones is in rural India - with education levels being low it would be difficult for app-makers to penetrate this market.

b) As browsers come pre-installed in handsets, the first battle is won by the browser maker. No handset manufacturer will consider a cell phone without a pre-installed browser.

c) With a new handset being launched every two weeks it will be tough for app developers to keep pace and cover the entire market.

d) With users seeking ringtone, wall paper download and others, it's obvious that the users' demand for WAPsite content will be high - something which apps can't suffice.

e) An app will always cover one site, which is only a fraction of the entire mobile traffic.

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