The most important app on your phone

The last couple of days have seen a flurry of activity in mobile. Apple announced its response to Google’s acquisition of AdMob by acquiring mobile ad network, Quattro. Google announced the much awaited Google phone, the Nexus One.  The bulk of the discussion has been around the mobile application battle between Apple and Google.  Henry Blodgett thinks Apple is poised to repeat mistakes of the past by remaining a largely closed (or at least tightly controlled platform). Bill Gurley thinks the battle between Apple and Google is largely a business model question and that there is room for both, serving different segments of the market with Apple in the high-end of the market and Google in the low-end.

The bulk of the discussion is over who will dominate in mobile apps. To which platform will developers flock? Who will have the most apps? Who will be most expert at app monetization? To me, this entire discussion is missing the point; because it ignores the most important application on your mobile phone.

The most important application on your phone is the browser!

Hasn’t the web taught us anything? The web obviates the need for many (and eventually most) applications by enabling them to be delivered from “the cloud” through the browser. When we look back in five years, I think we will see clearly that the app. phenomenon was a temporary bridge to a rich, and highly functional mobile experience dominated by the browser. 

You can replicate just about everything mobile apps can do in a browser. In some cases you can do more in the browser. And as Java, Flash and other browser display technologies continue to roll-out, the browser will only become more powerful. And as 4G networks begin to roll out the browser will have the advantage of a fatter pipe. Fatter pipes shift the economics of app development away from edge processing and toward the cloud. The mobile web also has huge advantages for application developers; no carrier approvals, no app store approvals; totally open.

Apple’s issue is not whether Google will surpass them in the mobile app battle, but rather the speed with which usage will shift from apps to the browser where Google has substantial advantages in delivery infrastructure and monetization (search and display).

Just my two cents. What do you think?

Derek Pilling is a Managing Director at Meritage Funds, a growth equity firm. Derek invests in technology-enabled services businesses in the Internet Infrastructure, Cloud Computing, Digital Media and SaaS sectors.Derek lives in Denver with his wife and his three children. In his spare time, Derek enjoys coaching youth soccer, skiing, hiking, spinning and hopping on his rowing machine in the morning.

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Derek Pilling

About Derek

I'm a Managing Director with Meritage Funds, a growth equity investment firm based in Denver, CO. I've been working with growth stage businesses my entire career. When I'm not working, I ski, spin, coach youth sports and spend time with my beautiful wife and three kids.

I blog because the process helps me crystalize how I frame the world. I want to hear what you think. Please comment.

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