The Browser is the Computer

Years ago Sun CEO Scott McNealy said the Network is the Computer – Google hopes he’s right

Apple can do no wrong – they never could. The company has always had zealous fans who considered Apple products to be like their own superficial entry into some sort of consumer electronics cult. I lived this firsthand when I was in MIS and I decided to deploy PC-based desktop publishing in the eighties. Talk about upsetting your art department. And partially as a result of these Apple loyalists (can we call them an e-congregation?) combined with Cupertino’s inferior position in the market, the company has been a media darling. It is so crazy in fact that Steve Jobs has crossed over the line as a celebrity and is even tracked by gossip sites like TMZ. One can only imagine the ribbing the Jobs Paparazzi get from those who snap pics of Britney, Paris and Angelina.

But this status may be coming to an end since Apple decided it would become a censor and limit applications which can get into the iTunes App Store. Well, that isn’t entirely accurate, you see Apple not only censors what can get into the App Store, quite often they pull applications which were approved earlier. Sometimes after only a few short hours.

One of the more popular apps approved and pulled in fact was Google Voice and this seems to have been the straw which broke the back of Apple’s positive PR. In fact the outcry was so great from the blogosphere that prominent blogger Michael Arrington of TechCrunch decided to give up his shiny new Apple device because he was fed up with having an e-nanny.

And Arrington is probably not a fellow anyone wants to upset as he switched to T-Mobile, detailed how he did it, and in the process got his hands on a myTouch made by HTC and is seriously praising it – calling it better than the iPhone 3G S – ouch!

But getting back to the App Store, TechCrunch has almost made a living out of beating up the App Store policies, wondering what the logic is in approving an application which tracks sex offenders – only to pull it later. As the author MG Siegler says:

“Why was this app accepted in the first place if it was going to be rejected just a few weeks later? The app is all about tracking sexual offenders, if that doesn’t scream “screen me closely,” I don’t know what does.

He’s right.

But while application stores are all the rage and Nokia, Microsoft and the rest of the free world (China too!) tries to build app stores, Google has taken a different direction in their public relations by proclaiming the browser is more important than the app stores which are a dead end.

From a Wired article by Brian X. Chen:

Vic Gundotra, Google’s engineering vice president and developer evangelist, said on Friday at the Mobilebeat conference in San Francisco that the future of the mobile industry lies in web-based applications, rather than native software coded to run on specific smartphone operating systems.

“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning,” Gundotra was quoted in a Financial Times report. “We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”

I should note however that Google is hedging and has an app store – just in case they are wrong I suppose. There are two comments I have to make at this juncture – most non-Apple app stores are likely to be short-lived and Google may be right about the power of the browser.

You see on a recent trip to Northern California I met with one vendor who described an application they were developing for the iPhone. I immediately asked how they are getting around many of the iPhone limitations. The answer turned out to be the app is not an app, the company’s backend solution works with the Safari browser on the iPhone.

For me, this was the aha moment as the browser on the iPhone is great and allows a developer to develop some very robust and interesting solutions. The lack of Flash support is a major drawback but that is a discussion for another day.

After the meeting with the vendor who asked to be unidentified until they are ready to go public I got to thinking what the value of the App Store censors are in the first place. If you have an open browser you are able to visit porn sites, malicious sites and anything else you choose.

So this leads us to the question of why the App Store even has restrictions on applications with adult content. It is perplexing considering the browser isn’t censored.

Since my return from Silicon Valley I have heard more and more talk of developers just releasing browser-based versions of their solutions. And while this won’t work for all apps, it is a great way to get past Apple censors for now.

It is worth mentioning Google Voice will likely have a browser version soon and when it does we will get to see for ourselves the limitations of browser-based apps versus those written for native platforms. And as this docudrama plays out I am sure Scott McNealy is watching closely, popcorn in hand.

To learn more about the IP communications market as it relates to the companies mentioned in this article and hundreds of others be sure to come to TMC’s ITEXPO in Los Angeles in a few weeks – one of the largest communication events anywhere.

  • ben
    August 25, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Apple used to do things in the wrong way back in early 90s. But now things are different. They are in it to make money.

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