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Is the mobile web browser dead?

January 17, 2007

The answer is yes, if you ask Gary Warren.

Gary recently wrote an editorial piece for Cnet News entitled “Shattering illusions about the mobile Web browser”. In it he says “The reality is that trying to use a mobile Web browser, regardless of the device, is like using tin cans to communicate — it just doesn’t work. Mobile browsers are slow, clumsy and dependent on connectivity.”

So what’s his answer to mobile browser? Rich applications (I.e. custom applications such as for reading email, news, eBay, etc.). “The only humane thing to do is to put the mobile Web browser out of its misery by harnessing the power of rich applications.”

I would beg to differ, and I believe Apple and Steve Jobs would too (they just announced the iPhone). I wonder if Gary ever browsed the web using Opera Mini. With Opera Mini you could browser the full web (not just WAP sites) and read your Gmail, etc., and browsing is even better with the full Opera Mobile web browser (that comes with tabs, of course).

One thing to note, however, is that Gary Warren is the CEO of AppForge, a company that develops these rich applications.

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Categories: Opera Mini, Opera Mobile
  1. January 17, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Corporate SmartPhones*

    Most IT policies for BlackBerry and Treos will allow mobile browsing, but installing apps is another can of worms that IT is more strict about opening. So it’s likely a mobile browser will probably remain the cornerstone of smartphone connectivity for some time. Although it’s changing more and more towards consumers, when thinking about smartphones, you shouldn’t just dismiss the corporate evironment.

    *Yes- you can get mini on any phone. But the UIs of the smartphones are often easier to browse with as they have browsing built in by design

  2. Kc4
    January 17, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    The real question is “Did the mobile browser ever live?” the answer for Canada is NO! Although some business men used it, and my Dad used WAP (until Rogers took away the Mail to WAP service). Although Bell (and by extension Solo) have unlimited mobile browsing it doesn’t seem to have caught on. Then again the people I have found are still amazed by the whole “flip phone” thing. Rogers is pushing BlackBerry (and related devices) for Business, but “4 GB MP3 Phones” to everyone else. I think the slow take up of mobile browsing here comes from the history of the cellular phone take up.

    In Alberta there are places and situations (especially in winter) where having a cellular phone really does make the difference between life and death. This makes the mobile phone a tool and not a toy. Landline telephone’s are seen in a similar light. Although this may not be true in Urban areas (I of coarse have a Rural bias).

  3. January 17, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Something Warren neglects to consider is casual use. It’s one thing to install a couple of apps for a couple of services you use frequently (say, your bank and ebay). But what if you want to look something up on Wikipedia? Does Slashdot need its own app? If I want to check for new posts on blogs, should I have to install a separate application for each blog that I follow?

    The editorial is a great example of applying tunnel vision to a false dilemma. Not only is there plenty of room for both a browser and rich clients on mobile devices, but he completely misses the one big advnatage the browser has over rich apps: I can visit 30 different services with one browser, instead of installing 30 different apps.

    While we’re at it, the limitations he sees in the browser, like slow connection speeds, aren’t going to be there forever — and in some cases are already gone if you look outside the US. IIRC, the available bandwidth on mobile networks in Japan, for instance, far outstrips anything we have here.

  4. January 17, 2007 at 10:32 pm

    The *richest* of all mobile internet applications, is the mobile Web browser… The Web, my choice… better than… The web, your choice…

    Agree with @Kelson

  5. January 18, 2007 at 5:27 am

    Maybe someone should write an article called Shattering illusions about Cnet. I’ve always found their reporting to be poorly researched and generally inaccurate.. As far as I’m concerned, their opinion on anything is useless, because it seems, either they do not know the subjects they write about well enough, or they just go for the punchy headlines and content, regardless of the distorted reality it points to.

  6. Rhonnysparks
    January 18, 2007 at 5:51 am

    Rich applications sound like where widgets are hopefully headed. Being able to have both rich applications and a mobile browser is the ideal solution and I think Opera is aiming for that.

  7. January 18, 2007 at 9:38 am

    This pisses me off! Rich Applications just seem so stupid to me. We now finally have a platform independent and dynamic web (ajax, html, css) that’s capable of deliver smart service like Google Maps and Widgets etc. Should we now just abandon it and doing everything seperately/manually and non-standardized?

    What also confuses me is how CNET and similar media companies can still got such a large impact on the technical development. This guy is obviously just doing some marketing for his company. From their web site:

    “Mobile Application Platform
    Create customer-facing and custom enterprise mobile applications that will run on all leading smartphone devices.”

  8. January 18, 2007 at 11:14 am

    well, i think gary has used opera mini and i am guessing he liked it enough to reject it 😉

    i am a net junkie and to my misfortune i do not have a computer at home. opera mini meets my needs almost 60 – 70% and 95% of my critical web needs like gmail and online trading (yes i trade in equities through opera mini). BTW mini is better than gmail’s rich application.

    i wish i had a nokia symbian phone so that i could use opera mobile.

  9. January 18, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    The last paragraph sums is up 🙂
    “One thing to note, however, is that Gary Warren is the CEO of AppForge, a company that develops these rich applications.”

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