Mobile web may beat out mobile apps in the long run

Taptu, the mobile search solution, has been keeping an eye on the mobile web — specifically what they’re calling the mobile touch web, which I guess is slightly different from the non-touch mobile web — and has produced a fairly comprehensive report of their findings. Of particular interest is the fact that “there are a higher proportion of shopping and services sites on the mobile touch Web (20%) compared to Apple’s App Store (3.6%).” According to Taptu, this is because “the mobile touch Web provides the opportunity for direct-to-consumer billing.”

I think it goes beyond just the direct-to-consumer billing convenience, though. You can spend your time and energy and precious development resources to build a terrific platform-specific application, only to sit in frustration as it languishes in some opaque approval process. And then you get to do it all over again on the other major platforms, increasing your development costs and complexity. Or you can spend your time and energy and precious development resources making a terrific mobile-optimized view into your existing web presence. The latter choice allows you to target and receive visits from multiple mobile devices, both current and those in the works. It also allows you to push out updates that are immediately enjoyed by all your users, without requiring them to download the updated app to their device.

My buddy Chris recently decided to write a mobile-friendly admin plugin for the blogging software he uses, rather than try to write a dedicated iPhone app. As he points out, “this plugin works on iPhone, iPod Touch, the Palm webOS and Android phones.” And it’s something that’s available for use now, without any approval delay.

I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to create what amounts to an alternate mobile admin as a native app. There is very little, if anything, to be gained from doing that. On the contrary there is much more to gain by making something like this into a well designed web app.

I think Chris is on to something; and I think we’ll see a pretty healthy adoption of touch mobile web sites as our devices continue to mature.