As we work more in mobile learning and content delivery space, my belief is strengthening that instead of current model of writing native apps, web apps are going to become favorite medium to deliver m-learning for mobile devices. Here are my reasons –
This is what the current mobile operating system landscape looks like (Courtesy StatCounter):
So right now we have 4 major operating systems – Symbian, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry OS. Microsoft is also going to come out all guns blazing with Windows 8, and should become a prominent player in some time.
All of these operating systems use different programming languages – and hence there is no build-once-run-anywhere kind of deal with mobile OSs.
So if you are an organization that wishes to create native m-learning apps for an audience that is using diverse types of devices, then you need to get separate app versions developed for all of these operating systems, publish them on their respective app stores, wait to get the app approved (ranges from a few days to a few weeks), and then make them available to your learners!
And the troubles don’t end here – with the lightning speed at which newer versions of these operating systems are being released (the Ice Cream Sandwich thing has not even been adopted properly yet, and we have the Jelly Bean announcement from Android!), one would need to keep on perpetually upgrading the apps for all the newer OS versions and reiterate the test-publish-wait-deliver cycle!
No points for guessing that this can be very time and effort (read Money) consuming – which can be a tough call for organizations who wish to jump into the m-learning space via the app route. This becomes all the more important if you are getting apps developed for your employees rather than for B2C distribution, and that’s because justifying ROI for native app development and maintenance becomes difficult for a relatively smaller user base.
It’s for these reasons that I believe that this native app model with such a diverse OS landscape is not sustainable, and that there will be movement away from native apps to web apps. A parallel movement in the desktop space further strengthens this arguments. Just about a decade ago, everything used to get installed on our desktop/laptop as a native application. But with Internet bandwidth becoming abundantly available, and browsers becoming more powerful,all the applications started moving onto the Web – so much so that today we have everything from Office applications to file storage moving on to the cloud.
Here I need to add a caveat that native apps will still rule where I have to use some device or OS capability in my app, such as location services or phone camera or motion detection, etc. But for everything else, such as delivering content, getting assessments conducted, or providing simple productivity tools, we will see more and more of web apps built using HTML5 because they would be able to deliver the same experience to the end user as the native apps.
So as mobile browsers mature and adopt HTML5 more widely, and connectivity becomes more stable, we will see a similar movement in the mobile app space as well. Infact some prominent publishers are already moving away from native to web apps – read experiences of The Financial Times and Technology Review to learn more about the reasons behind this shift.
Interested in exploring how we can assist you with your m-learning or mobile content delivery strategy? Please do feel free to contact us by writing to us at [email protected]