Will iPhone Applications Reverse the Trend Toward Mobile Web Browsing?

As I look at the buzz over the soon to launch App Store for the iPhone, I have to wonder: Why is their so much buzz for building clients applications for a 3G phone?

Here’s my theory: While the development platform for building client applications for the iPhone has taken what’s possible in mobile software to a new level, there has also been a significant evolution in what can be done on the mobile web. The latter cuts into the value of the former.

Sketching it out, here is the trend I see:

Value of Client Apps Decreases Over Time

Back in the day, people would pay quite a bit for really rudimentary software. But that was the only way to expand the functionality of their devices. However, as the web became easier to access due to a combination of better mobile browsers, more mobile friendly websites, and faster mobile bandwidth, the need for client applications has become less and less.

People are no longer standing in line at the grocery store playing Soduku on their phones. They’re checking headlines in their Google Reader mobile or iPhone edition, or CNN, or any number of things more valuable than the previously mindless distractions they paid to download and install.

Clearly, there are things that can be done in a client application that dwarf what can be done using a mobile browser, but is it enough to reverse the trend toward mobile web browsing? I doubt it.

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