Yesterday, I posted a blog that touched on the mobile device market and the rumors that Apple has a tablet up its sleeve.
The posting mentioned a piece by Creative Strategies' principal Tim Bajarin on the split in the netbook sector between devices that run full application suites and smartbooks, whose major function is to support a browser. Users can pick up what they need from the Web.
The schism in the netbook market is characteristic of the underlying tensions in the overall architecture of the public network. Should the expensive heavy lifting be done mostly in the devices or somewhere in the network? The key debating points are the cost of data transport (i.e., the capacity of the network), the state of processing in the desktop or mobile device, and security, which is a defacto part of any telecommunications debate.
That issue comes up again in this Read, Write, Web piece. The thesis of the commentary is that the cloud will be the future of mobile applications. The commentary, which was stimulated by an ABI Research study, offers several reasons that mobile processing and development will move inexorably to the cloud. It's a healthy debate.
The post describes an environment that is friendly to cloud approaches. Smartphones are growing, but still are in the minority -- especially in developing areas. Thus, the ability to move processing responsibilities off the device is an advantage. There also are far more developers capable of writing for the Web than any individual platform. Finally, working more fully on the Web will tend to sever, or at least loosen, the proprietary nature of the relationship between the vendor and service provider. Put more simply, working in the cloud will stimulate the emergence of applications that are more generic and not tied to specific phones and carriers.
Not everyone agrees, of course. IDC's Stephen Drake points to challenges to Web-based mobile applications. Drake's point is more that moving fully to the browser is premature and may eliminate the all important local context.
The growth of the mobile Web makes it more likely that cloud approaches will win in the end. 3G and 4G networks are evolving to the point that there is enough bandwidth for a vast majority of the applications and programs people use. Related to that is the simple reality that people expect access to to everything from everywhere. In such an environment, a more fluid arrangement, in which devices aren't tightly tethered to the corporate data center, seems logical. It also seems logical to remove devices' processing power as the potential weakest link.