App stores vs. the open world wide web

PPK has, as usual, written an excellent piece on, what seems like is a never ending story; Apps vs. web. My personal opinion, as I always have had, is that the web in its nature, and web technology with its cross platform abilities, is the most future proof and scalable option.

Just think of it: Apple is in these days celebrating 10bill downloads . Sounds like a big number, but 140 bill web searches are performed pr month globally (let’s assume that the number has increased a bit since December 2009). If 4-6% of these are performed by mobile devices, and assuming Google has close to 100% of all mobile web searches; Google serves in the area of 6-8 billion mobile searches! Per month! Moreover, several reports are telling us about explosive growth in mobile web search. Then 10 bill app downloads since the launch becomes a small number.

Given this, what does not make sense to me is that people choose to spend (I am saying spend, not invest) money on apps in an app store, and not invest in their web strategy in general by making sure mobile searchers are taken well care of. SEO with a mobile twist, make sure deep linking works, optimized presentation for handheld devices etc. etc. This is an investment because cost of ownership is way less than maintaining a number of apps and app store relationships.

In my mind, the conclusion is easy: The web is the biggest and most scalable app store.

Regarding Apple’s monopoly @ppk states:

The iOS architecture enforces a distribution monopoly for Apple’s app store. This monopoly is used for controlling money, content, advertising, and discoverability, with the predictable consequence that Apple makes a succulent amount of money

I would like to add that one of the more critical issues with this particular app store is that Apple owns the relationship to the customer, refusing to share it with those who created the relationship. This story is a good example and well worth noting in this discussion (and when you are done with that, read about the success of the iPad newsstand Zinio ).

PPK goes as far as calling the app stores a “solution without a problem“. I would not go that far. As I discussed in a blogpost at Mobiletech, the good thing with app stores (meaning Apple) is that they come with an out of the box, working business model (didn’t say any other than Apple will make money, but it’s still a possible revenue option).

I feel that I could have gone on forever listing arguments on why a mobile strategy based on apps and app store business models is not sustainable.