Keys-by-TEARN mobile platform
Diary of a passionate, tech Dad
from TEARN i.e. teach to learn

May 25, 2011

What's An App?

Mobile apps have emerged from non-existence. In a short few years, both Apple and Google have reported billions of app downloads per month. To put this into perspective, these numbers overwhelm the total software ever sold on any and all computer classes.

These billions of downloads occur every month.

But, the problem is we don't know what an app is. How is it different from a web page or website?

An App is Short for Application

The official definition floating around the web and among the hapless dictionaries is that an app is short for an application. (ed: sorry for cynicism ;-)

So, what is an application? Wikipedia distinguishes applications from system software - and further enumerates the types of application software. Most of the definitions for mobile apps have tried to enumerate the types of mobile apps - rather than define the term.

To put substance to a formal definition for mobile apps, we should adopt the Wikipedia definition. But, we do need to distinguish an ordinary web page or website from mobile apps.

Ending Stupid Myths

Some try to distinguish apps from websites by the choice of languages used to create the app (i.e. Objective C on the iPhone, C++ and Visual Basic from Microsoft, Java for Android - versus Javascript for HP webos, ChromeBook, and RIM OS7. Even CSS might be considered a programming language.) A language allows developers to integrate the UI (i.e. usually defined using HTML tags) with the API's (i.e. Application Program Interfaces) that allow access to files, (e.g. photos) sensors, (e.g. touch, orientation, temperature) and resources in other applications (e.g. phone numbers in the phone book, RSS feeds.)

The choice of language makes no difference. Any page where any language does the heavy lifting is an app - versus a web page where Javascript might have inconsequential use.

Some try to distinguish by whether an app depends on the network for resources. If the app caches content and can run without a network connection, it is an app. If not, the app is a web page.

There is no relevancy of network use to the distinction between an app and a web page. Every app can use the network as a resource. It's an available option.

Apps are just for mobile devices. With the arrival of the iPad, the definition of apps has dropped the mobile adjective. What the mobile interface has forced upon the developer community was the discipline to redesign the cluttered interface of typical websites. After all, the clutter does not fit on a four-inch mobile screen.

Thus, apps are no longer just for mobile use.

Native apps are real apps. Apps that reside on the network are web apps, and not really an app. This is simply false.

100% native apps do run faster, but they also do less. As browsers improve, this speed difference has quickly become inconsequential.

Most apps - such as Google Maps - uses a combination of native and web parts to do its magic. So does Facebook, Yahoo Mail, Google Translate, and most of the popular apps.

Is there any relevancy to the repeated discussions distinguishing native versus web app? Probably not.

For developers, the real question is drawing the line between native and network components.

Toward a Simple Definition

An app integrates system resources (i.e. whether local or network) with the user interface (i.e. typically defined using HTML). A website that is mostly HTML is not an app.

For example, a single Keys-by-TEARN app typically displaces thousands of web pages with a single download, simplifies the use, and adds interactivity that delivers learning value.

What's needed is a million more apps to replace the vast jungle of useless web pages that has been left behind from phase one of the world wide web. Let's get to work.

No comments:

about (10) Amazon (2) Android App (13) animals (4) Apple iPhone (14) arts-series (2) bio-series (4) Blackberry (4) chem-series (5) Chrome OS (1) coffee-table apps (7) developer (4) Explorer (1) Facebook (3) faq (2) financial (1) Firefox (1) free (17) GRE (2) learning (8) LG (2) media (3) MoAppo (5) Motorola (2) news (11) Nokia (2) Palm App (7) research (3) SAT (7) seasonal (6) sports (16) stats (25) tablets (4) Toshiba (2) travel (4) usage (9) versions (13)

Sponsored Links

moAPPo: Mobile Commerce

Gallery | Blog | Contact