The browser is mobile’s killer app

In Google’s view of the Mobile Web, the browser is what really matters, and in a time of everybody building apps, I think this is absolutely spot-on. Apps are closed systems within proprietary operating systems, so reaching across all operating systems — including those that are yet to come — is problematic at best. The advent of HTML5 allows for rich experiences across all browsers for anybody wishing to play in the Mobile Web, so spending all of our time and resources playing with apps is something we ought to reconsider.

Brendon Kraham, GoogleThis concept of the browser as killer app was put forth by Brendon Kraham, Team Manager of Mobile for Google, at the Borrell mobile conference in Dallas, and it was a presentation that was, frankly, pretty eye-opening. Kraham offered four conclusions about mobile:

  1. Growth is accelerating. This was a common theme throughout the conference. Kraham referenced Mary Meeker’s projection that within the next five years, more people will be using the Mobile Web than the Wired Web. The revenue graphs shown by Borrell are remarkable, so there’s little disagreement that mobile is where its at.
  2. Openness will win. This is why Google created Android. Despite the beauty of walled gardens today, people will eventually expect the same things from the Mobile Web that they do from its wired big brother. This is one of the reasons that net neutrality laws MUST be extended to the Mobile Web, ‘lest the Telcos turn it into tiered options based on money. There are 60 devices running Android worldwide today, with 200,000 new activations every day.
  3. The browser is the new killer app. As noted above, if we wish a ubiquitous present in the Mobile Web, then the mobile browser is what we should be preparing ourselves for. Kraham noted that the line between mobile and wired is blurring more and more each day. I think it’s absolutely necessary to pay attention to this concept.
  4. Mobile consumers are looking for local information. 30% of all Google mobile searches are local, according to Kraham, so portable media is very personal and very local. Search is also the top opportunity for mobile, and Google is, well, tops in search. Kraham showed slides representing mobile search activity in San Francisco over the life span of smartphones, and growth was 11.6 times over just a two-year period. Truly remarkable.

So if the browser is the new killer mobile app, then mobile landing pages for small and mid-sized businesses are hugely important and a significant opportunity for somebody. Kraham noted that the number one thing merchants want with local search is to drive people to their landing pages. However, he noted, most are just crap (my word). Mobile landing pages, he said, must “optimize USER experience,” and that’s very different than simply providing an online brochure. It takes skill to think like a customer, but that’s what’s necessary in the mobile world.

He spoke of several new innovations that Google has been working on, including hyperlocal distance information and click to call. In a search for a business, they can include our location and produce a map that shows where we are and how we get to the searched business. “Click to call” is a technology that’s included in a search ad, where users click on a unique number which routes them to the business they’re seeking.

Money in the mobile space will be much more about enabling commerce than it even is online, and we need to think this way, if we’re going to be successful.

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