Which tech companies will come out on top, as people continue to gravitate towards app-centered mobile Internet usage, and away from browser-based desktop Internet usage? Respected tech commentator and venture capitalist Bill Gurley outlines several challenges facing tech companies as they transition to a mobile, app-centric world.
On his Above the Crowd blog, Gurley notes several important characteristics of successful mobile device applications, and offers some advice for “browser-based Internet incumbents,” such as Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) — companies that have an inherent, strategic disadvantage when compared with smaller, more nimble startups.
1. Keep It Simple
Gurley notes that mobile users have a “one-click usability expectation” for mobile applications. In this sense, websites that have a lot of features, such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), are at a natural disadvantage. “Mobile values the single solution, one sharp blade rather than a Swiss army knife,” writes Gurley.
2. Design for Multiple Platforms
Gurley also notes that tech companies now have to deal with more “developmental complexity,” as they must continue to support their desktop-based websites, while simultaneously creating apps for both Android and iOS. Gurley believes the hybrid approach of HTML 5 is a mistake, and will only frustrate users who expect a faster and simpler mobile web experience.
3. Mobile Apps Lack SEO
In what could be interpreted as a warning for Google, Gurley notes that the typical desktop-centric website is hampered by the need to include SEO (search engine optimization) content that caters to Google’s search paradigm. However, Gurley observes that mobile users are less likely to base their Internet usage on searches, and more likely to use apps to complete tasks. Although lack of SEO gives mobile apps a “cleaner design,” it also makes the old SEO-focused design approach obsolete.
4. App Users Are Worth More
As the primary source of mobile apps, Apple may have a distinct advantage in the evolving world of mobile device usage. Gurley notes that users are making a usage commitment when they download and adopt a mobile app. This is different from the classic desktop Internet user, who can easily switch to a competitor by simply clicking a link.
5. App Stores Need Customer Acquisition Techniques
Although companies used to be able to attract new customers through SEO and SEM (search engine marketing) methods, mobile apps are not so focused on either SEO or SEM. However, Gurley thinks Apple and Google may be missing out by not offering “the equivalent of SEM slots alongside their app store taxonomy.”
6. ‘One-Click’ Payment
Gurley notes that mobile users are looking for a simplified, “one-click” payment method for mobile apps. He believes that Apple and Google are two major contenders in the mobile payment arena, and that mobile payment could become one of the most intense areas of future competition for tech companies.
7. Mobile Platforms Are Still Evolving
Finally, Gurley observes that the mobile platform battle is far from over. He writes that, “iOS and Android are dynamic platforms, and both Apple and Google are still evolving their corporate strategy for each.” He believes Google prefers an “HTML-centric world” that focuses on searches, while Apple prefers to continue pushing the mobile world towards a completely “app-centric” world. Since the mobile world is already centered on apps, it would appear that Apple’s strategy gives it the upper hand in the overall mobile platform battle.
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