Mobilize: The Browser as the Unifier


Future of Mobile OS ChatThe biggest complaint coming from mobile developers is that there are just too many darn cell phone platforms and devices for which they need to create applications. Compared to the dozens of platforms in the cell phone world, developing applications for PCs is a breeze. But until the cell phone world gets a whole lot simpler, there’s an answer to all that confusion, says Jon von Tetzchner, co-Founder and CEO of Opera Software: the browser.

The browser can be a unifying force and eliminate the need to create so many native mobile applications, explained Tetzchner and session moderator Ryan Paul, editor of Ars Technica. In the same way that new applications for PCs are largely web-based, with versions created for the most dominant browsers, the mobile web could follow a similar scenario.

Of course, Opera makes browsers and so has good reason to talk up their benefit. But others, like Bob Morris, head of mobile marketing for ARM Holdings, are also saying the browser is king of the mobile web. Morris believes that the increasing number of services accessed through web sites like Facebook and Gmail are what chip vendors and device makers needs to pay attention to and that browsers will ultimately drive the consumer experience more than the operating system. Tetzchner’s gotta like the sound of that!


Chris Fleck

Another alternative for companies looking to solve the dilemma of development and support for multiple platforms and multiple devices is to build once, run the apps on company servers and then deliver the apps to any Receiver enabled mobile device. Many companies ( 200,000+ ) already have Citrix XenApp infrastructure in place and keeping the data in the data center solves the other primary IT concern for security. Applications including RIA and Windows can be developed with existing platforms and skills simply redefining the size of the UI view. Virtual Channels can also be built to utilize local resources such as GPS or I/O.
The only limitation is that connectivity is required. For many company apps that is a requirement anyway for real time data access.

See ” Build Once, Deliver Anywhere ”

Peter Cranstone

>> The whole notion of a browser being the great unifier is utter marketing rubbish,

Not so fast. Let’s add a little more context to the discussion. We’ll start with the cost of developing a mobile application.

For a sensible app it takes about 6 months to get it designed, built, tested, debugged and then shipped. Cost depending upon the app, the complexity and the connectivity required can range anywhere between $50k all the way to $100k

Now multiple that on 3 platforms – multiple programming languages, and multiple devices and you’re in the $1/2 million range.

Next – rev the app to support new device changes (again across all three platforms) and also add new GUI’s and business logic to support new web services. Add another $1/2m

Total to support 3 platforms, is around $1m dollars and at least a year or more of effort.

Compare that with the browser. HTML page for a mobile device $1,500 and that’s about it.

So what’s the difference here (apart from the time, money and effort)? Well a mobile app can access device side data far better than a browser. So you can build a richer application vs. plain old HTML.

But what if they browser could access ALL the same device side API’s as the mobile app and then share that data in real time with a web service (just like the Mobile app)?

Then the cost of mobile would go down dramatically, one web page would scale across multiple platforms, you would have one development platform to deal with (the web) and access to multiple data sets (the context) all for the price of a browser.

There is actually free software out there that does exactly that – allows the browser to access the device side api’s and then share that data with a web service (which is EXACTLY what a mobile app would do).

The cost savings, the time savings and the risk of deployment are reduced by factors.

Consumers on mobile want three things – Convenience, Privacy and Control vs. The Enterprise who just wants to make money. The most cost efficient way to achieve this alignment is using the browser and leveraging existing infrastructure.

Why the browser?

Zero behavioral changes (nothing new to learn)
One login
2 second response time
3 clicks to relevant content

Plus it scales to any web service. Mobile apps don’t do that.


The whole notion of a browser being the great unifier is utter marketing rubbish, similar to the hubris around Java/Flash/etc. being the great unifier. Opera has an obvious agenda, which is fine, but the reality is that unless everybody only uses a single version of a single browser (which will not happen), then the whole house of cards comes tumbling down.

My impression is that everybody wants another dot-com era for the mobile world. However, I would observe that the so-called mobile web is radically different from the wired web. The context is different, and the way that content is consumed is different.

As Konny Zsigo notes (, device fragmentation is here to stay, get over it. Trying to push the browser as the platform is so last-decade thinking and will only result in a whole slew of mediocre applications/widgets that serve nobody well. I’m not saying that browsers, Java/Flash/etc. should be thrown away, but for God’s sake quit trying to make them something that they’re not, i.e., a platform for unification.

Peter Cranstone

Spot on. Mobile applications are complex & expensive to build across multiple platforms. The first thing the browser of the future needs is a new menu option – Privacy options that allow the consumer to control exactly who gets access to their device side data. (Privacy is the one item that remains on everyone’s to do list.)

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