If you think I’m full of hot air for saying some of the things I saw, try out Alex’s take instead. His points about not having a reusable endpoint for application service on a phone is interesting. You have a phone number for voice and SMS, and you have a URL for web services, but there’s nothing really the same for installable applications (not yet at least, this is one of the reasons GetJar is interesting). I also thought his list of features the browser needs to grow directly were very interesting:
- Access to location information
- Access to the voice channel
- Access to the camera
- Access to contacts/address book
I keep hearing that list over and over again. Frequently the reason stated for not including the stuff is “security issues”, which is hard to argue against because so many folks currently would gladly give up tons of freedom in exchange for a little safety. But there’s no real reason for that. If I as a user want to send my location information to a service the system should allow that, and claiming security as the reason not to provide it is just a cop-out.
The point I disagree with Alex on is open source in mobile making a difference. I do see potential for folks like OpenMoko and the Firefox Mobile effort to really shift the playing field. If for no other reason than they can provide platforms that fix those four deficiencies in current mobile browsers. And once the mobile web is really setup to be able to win, things will tip in that direction. Users will bother to download and app and keep using it if that app is a genuinely advanced browser that gives them access to a whole bunch of other applications out on the web. Users will get a handset so that they can share their data online the way they want if the applications are out there to do so. I see open source as the only way to bootstrap that process. The carriers aren’t going to do it, existing manufacturers aren’t going to do it, and web app owners can’t do it on their own.