I declare that emphatically because I want it to be so. I’m sure I’m not the only code monkey out there praying that “write once, run anywhere” doesn’t leave us like ###… Even now web developers have to test across at least 3 different browsers,* but at least things are trending towards standardization and it’s becoming easier to create a web app that will behave the same independent of a user’s choice of browser.
Smartphones pose a serious threat to that ubiquity in the same way that the differences between Windows, Mac OS, and Linux made developing desktop apps an elephant-sized pain in the ass. Web developers have long wished and advocated for browsers that run everything the same way. While that is probably never going to happen, the difference between developing for IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera is much (much much) smaller than the difference between developing for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
if (Portability > Usability) then ?
There is a reason that desktop-style web apps are popular. Yes, people still use Outlook, Thunderbird, and many other fat desktop clients for email, but there’s a reason that there’s 300 million people using Yahoo Webmail, Gmail, Hotmail, and AOL Webmail (I extrapolated that number from these percentages of market share), and that given the choice, 49% of people choose Gmail as the best email client. There’s also a reason that Google has basically given a big fat middle finger to native iPhone apps with their Gmail client in HTML5 (and now Google Voice web app, also in HTML5). There a reason that there’s a lot more “mobile touch” web sites than there are iPhone and Android apps. There’s a reason that I get practically all of my links from Read/Write Web and not Read/Write Native Smartphone App.
That reason is Portability. That is: I can run a web app from anywhere on anyone’s computer (or phone) as long as I’ve got internet access. So, while a client like Outlook or Thunderbird offers a slightly faster response time and some extra features, if you use one of those and don’t use a web-app version in addition to the desktop client, you suddenly sound like someone who doesn’t really know how the internet even works (do you really want to be the person who says: “I have to check my email on my home computer”?)
And for the second part of the equation: Usability – the gap between web app and desktop app is getting smaller every day. Web developers continue to push the limits of what web-based applications can do with respect to speed and user interfaces. Sure, web apps (even the good ones) are slow compared to native apps when they’re running on a (relatively) slow phone with a (relatively) slow 3G internet connection. But the speed of the phones and the connections is improving even faster than the speed of the apps themselves.
So, now take the difference in Portability (we’ll say this difference is a fairly large positive in favor of web apps) and add the difference in Usability (we’ll say this is slightly negative with respect to web apps) and then add in the fact that you can write a web app in one language and have it run on every single phone and computer with internet access and see if you don’t come out with a conclusion that says: HTML is the Future.
And, if you want some awesome tips for developing in HTML5, check out Alex Bosworth’s post.
* Yes, all you Opera and Safari heads, I said at least.
PoketyPoke is a new service that calls you when you have a conference call and connects you automatically. Why it took someone that long to think of and implement this is beyond me. This is like GTD times 80 bazillion. If implemented correctly, you’d never have to remember a conference call again (which could be a problem, I suppose if you’re supposed to give a presentation or something).
If you were me, you’d never have to worry about the timing of your meeting reminders (although I’ve got a pretty effective system down at this point).
I suppose the only downside is that is probably won’t be able to use Skype to call in for free. But, I think you can get a SkypeIn number for somewhere around $5 per month, so if that’s less than you’re paying for your normal phone or mobile because of conference calls sucking up all your plan minutes, then it might be worth it. Especially worth it if it means you never miss a meeting again.
While this post from TechCrunch on Zong and the new Zong+ is long, and covers a lot of ground on Zong, it leaves out what David Allen might call the Crazy Maker viewpoint.
Leena Rao (the author) pits Zong as a potential PayPal killer, which it certainly could be, but my Crazy Maker idea is that Zong could take on credit cards as we know them.
I’ve already mentioned this concept to my wife so many times I’ve learned to stop even saying anything remotely related to it, but: Why can’t I pay for stuff using my phone instead of my credit card? Sure, I’d still probably have to carry around my library card (until they start accepting phone numbers instead of library card numbers), cash, and my driver’s license. But, I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my wallet or having someone steal my card or spy on my card number. Why? Well, if you’re asking, you clearly didn’t read the TechCrunch article (and I can forgive you for that), so here’s the short version:
1. You give Zong your phone number and – with Zong+ – your credit card number.
2. You buy something and put in your phone number instead of any other number or email or whatever.
3. Zong sends you a PIN number via text message.
4. Put in the PIN number and you’re done. Paid!
Now imagine… You’re at the grocery store… instead of sliding your card in the credit/debit card machine, you punch your phone number into a PIN pad. A text is sent to your phone. You put the PIN from the text into the PIN pad. Done!
Yes, I realize it’s not all that much easier than the process for using a credit card, but it means that someone can’t take your card (if you drop it or leave it somewhere) and go on a shopping spree. More importantly, identity thieves won’t be able to sell credit cards they steal in shady internet chat rooms because they’d have to have your phone to get the PIN number text message in order to complete the transaction! Bam, said the lady!
I’ll admit, I watch Hulu on my laptop in bed sometimes.
I’ll also admit that somehow I missed the announcement of the first couple of designs and/or prototypes of the TechCrunch CrunchPad. But that doesn’t mean I won’t take a look at the price tag when it comes out. 🙂
Yeah, that’s a computer. Or a really big iPhone. I guess it depends on how you look at it.
According to TechCrunch, Hulu gained 10 million viewers in Feburary, which is an impressive number, but if you look at their chart, what I think is more impressive is the 64.5 minutes per viewer which is second in the top 10 behind only Google Sites (aka YouTube) which had 134 minutes, and 3.6 times more than the next highest average minutes per viewer in the top 10.
Maybe it’s because Hulu rocks the house. I wish CBS and ABC would take note. I would give them more advertising revenue that they are otherwise losing because I’d be all over the past 4 seasons of How I Met Your Mother and the last few episodes of LOST that I haven’t been able to watch yet (and I might even watch Wipeout if I could add it to my Hulu queue).