From Angry Birds to iMovie, apps are all the rage -- but could they soon go the way of the dodo?
A growing number of mobile stakeholders believe that the app-ocalypse may be nigh, with the advent of HTML5, a Web coding system that allows developers to bring the interactive functions of apps to websites.
And that can't be good for the dueling empires of Apple and Google, which have seen some 35 billion mobile app downloads in their stores to date, a significant source of revenue for both digital giants.
"This is a painful realization for Apple and Google," said Peter Yared, chief technical officer of CBS Interactive, which runs CNET, the world's largest tech media site. "Because they want to own the entire ecosystem."
As businesses become more sophisticated about where to invest digital resources, Yared said he expects fewer native apps and more advanced websites. With upward of 1 million apps available in Apple's App store and the Android Marketplace, gaining traction often requires a bit of serendipity.
"Now it's harder to find an app than it is to find somebody's website," Yared said. "And people are realizing it's really hard to get placement."
Michael Baker, president and CEO of Hub-based mobile marketing strategist DataXu, said publishers and developers want to create content that is "omni channel" -- working the same across mobile and desktop platforms, which HTML5 makes possible.
"Today, mobile apps are hot because they make it easy for consumers to use their phones for quick 'bit-sized tasks' like checking the weather at the press of a virtual button," Baker said. "But as the HTML5 standard gains traction, apps will diminish in favor of easy-to-use, relevant Web experiences."
Indeed, in a survey of 1,021 Internet experts conducted by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 60 percent said the Web will be in better shape in 2020 than today, with a much smaller number of apps.
Tom Burgess, CEO of Boston-based Linkable, said the app culture -- with its user-friendly icons collected like virtual possessions on a screen -- might be difficult to combat. He said developers would be smart to mimic apps with HTML5 coding by creating icons that link to rich interactive websites.
He likened app stores to a "toll" collected on a roadway.
"I do believe the concept of consumers paying for an app is definitely, definitely going away," Burgess said.
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