Next-Generation Web Applications Challenge App Store Strongholds

Global Intelligence Alliance (GIA), a global strategic market intelligence and advisory group, predicts that device-neutral web applications (apps) will soon challenge single-platform native applications.

Native apps are currently the dominant digital distribution platforms for mobile content and services. These primarily include App Store by Apple, App World by Research In Motion, Ovi Store by Nokia and Android Market by Google. All that is slated to change, according to the “Native or Web App” White Paper, a study conducted by GIA amongst developers, publishers, service providers and design agencies that collectively serve millions of consumers over mobile media.

The Study projects that web apps will become more viable as a mobile distribution platform, and will in future lead to a proliferation of  content distribution beyond typically tightly controlled App Store environments. This development is very much like the evolution of the Internet experience on computers. This is particularly true for subscription-based mobile services such as news and weather, which rely on iterative design and user analytics.

The key consumer drivers for the move towards web apps appear to be:

  • Explosive growth in mobile web usage, such as for social media and mobile e-commerce.
  • Access to richer user experiences. New generation web apps will have access to native device features, such as global positioning services (GPS), cameras, Near Field Communications (NFC) as well as contacts and address books, within the next three years.

  • Preference to access popular content and services on any platform, such as laptops, smart phones and tablets such as the iPad.

Publishers and businesses that responded to the survey said that through their experience, web apps offer:

  • Architectural advantages in reaching users across multiple device platforms
  • Greater distribution control

  • Clear cost advantages

  • Greater usage "stickiness"

  • Faster go-to-market (often weeks quicker to deploy)

“Businesses that are considering subscription-based services over multiple devices, such as tablets and smart phones, are likely to choose web apps over native ones. This will be especially applicable for news and weather, sports publications, financial services and healthcare. Web apps allow them to engage and track their subscribers more effectively than native apps. This is a critical factor in maintaining usage stickiness and customer retention,” said Lie Luo, Lead Consultant for Mobile and Wireless at Global Intelligence Alliance.

The GIA White Paper also indicates that native apps are currently more favoured by smaller and pay-per-download application providers, who have a greater need for monetization and value the benefit of established app store distribution channels.

In the future, native apps will likely to remain the preferred approach for pay-per-download services and heavier applications such as 3D games.

Chart 1: Interface choice split by monetization model

Table 2: Top 5 Reasons to Select Native App (over a Web App)

Most Impt
Ability to build a superior user interface
  Need to access device hardware
  Leverage popular, established app store distribution channels
  Most suited to own technical expertise
 Less Impt
Lack of Adobe Flash support

Source: Native or Web App White Paper by Global Intelligence Alliance

Table 3: Top 5 Reasons to Select Web App (over a Native App)

Most Impt
Ease and cost benefits of providing one interface accessible on multiple platforms
  Direct control over own distribution, no need to seek third party approval
  Ability to build superior user interface
  More suited to own technical expertise
Less Impt
More suited to own business or billing model

Source: Native or Web App White Paper by Global Intelligence Alliance

Chart 4: Key developments influencing future interface choice

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About Global Intelligence Alliance
Global Intelligence Alliance (GIA) is a strategic market intelligence and advisory group. GIA was formed in 1995 when a team of market intelligence specialists, management consultants, industry analysts and technology experts came together to build a powerful suite of customized solutions ranging from outsourced market monitoring services and software, to strategic analysis and advisory.

Today, we are the preferred partner for organizations seeking to understand, compete and grow in international markets. Our industry expertise and coverage of over 100 countries enables our customers to make better informed decisions worldwide.

About the Native or Web App study by GIA

The GIA Native or Web App study compares the overall future outlook of web-based vs. native applications, with wide-ranging implications beyond mobile services into general consumer electronics, such as tablet computers and connected televisions.

Between February and March 2010, GIA surveyed 87 developers, publishers, service providers and design agencies, that collectively represented hundreds of mobile service properties across over 20 content categories serving millions of consumers. In addition, GIA  also interviewed topic experts at leading publishers and technology consortiums such as IAC, Sanoma Publishing, W3C and Ericsson Research Lab. The resulting findings not only reflect past and present market experiences, but also provide a future outlook based on technology evolution and consumer behavior.