Have mobile apps had their day?

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A recent noshup of entrepreneurs in New York City has seen the prediction that mobile device apps have had their day, and will be superceded by simple mobile websites, according to this article by Spencer E Ante in The Wall Street Journal. Mark Ferdman, who runs Pushkart (which offers discounts for local merchants through an application for the iPhone and other smartphones) bit a chunk out of Apple, saying "Steve Jobs has done a great job of creating a marketplace that is unnecessary." The dinner in question (fettuccine with duck confit anyone?) was a semi-regular movable feast called Mobile Mondays, the second MM to be held in New York. At the dinner NYC entrepreneurs chewed the fat (indeed the duck confit) about issues they have in common. They're passionate about their geographical location and wouldn't dream of moving to Palo Alto, California, to start up and run their high-tech businesses. The statement about apps is interesting and thought-provoking. Apps were developed to make the smartphone experience easier. A fair percentage of them don't rely on you, the user, having 3G access to use them. So if apps gradually fade away in favour of websites (how full circle is THAT?!), you'll have to be connected and drawing on your data limits all the time. I wonder if Mark Ferdman has shares in a major telco? 🙂  In an ideal world 3G access would be cheap as chips and you'd never be without signal. But our world is far from ideal. OK, over to you. Are apps dead or dying? Would you prefer to use a dedicated app on your smart device or mess around with a website?  Share your thoughts below.

On the road with the iPad

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Before Christmas I set out on a road trip to Melbourne armed with my iPad rather than my laptop. I'd intended to blog about the iPad's mobile wonders while I was there, and I did. Except the apparently trusty WordPress app froze when I tried to save my post and my blog post was consigned to the great beyond. At that point I couldn't bring myself to slowly tap the whole thing out again on the touchscreen keyboard. Which was one of the little problems I had taking this admirable device away from home territory. The other was that my email failed halfway through the trip. After a day and a half in Melbourne I could receive, but not send. At home our broadband is with Telstra, but I have an Optus prepaid card for the iPad as Optus offered the better deal. I checked the configuration of my outgoing mail server and ensured it pointed to my own domain rather than Bigpond. Still no joy. Even my Gmail account stood me up. I resorted to using webmail on my iPhone ( problems), using my webhost server on the iPad using Safari, and the email program on my husband's MacBook Air (which also had sending problems for a day or two but mysteriously righted itself. It has Vodafone for travelling). I could have phoned Optus but realistically, I was on holiday and trying very hard NOT to respond to emails. The only button I hadn't pressed was the one that uses Optus as the outward mail server, because I didn't have my username and password with me. Had I phoned Optus after all I would have learned that I didn't need the password and all would have been well. One to remember for next time. Now I *know* this, the 3G capability works a treat for mail. There are limitations to travelling with the iPad if you're in my line of business. There were quite a few things I couldn't do for clients on the back ends of their websites; I needed a computer. I'm sure apps will appear in the future giving us a very similar capability on the iPad as on the Mac I'm typing this on; I could have done with them while I was away. As a travelling companion the iPad was great. I'd loaded the Smart Maps app for Melbourne so we didn't need a street directory. We don't have a GPS in the car as we have Luddite tendencies in that department and both love poring over maps, atlases and street directories. My husband has started to collect compasses. Smart Maps is a hefty app and takes up a few MBs, but doesn't need to use your 3G allocation to work. It simply loads the maps onto your device. Getting around Melbourne was a breeze with Smart Maps. I also have it on my iPhone. Catching up with news and weather was easy on both the iPad and iPhone. I haven't yet bought a newspaper app for the iPad but simply browsing the newspaper sites over breakfast was easy. I missed doing the crossword and word wheel though! I'm a voracious reader and usually find time to relax with a book no matter how busy the holiday or business trip. I'd loaded some free books from the iBooks store onto the iPad and saved myself luggage space to bring back Christmas presents. Reading on the iPad is easy; I use three readers, iBooks, Kindle and Kobo, and have found many free book downloads that look interesting. Yes, you can read books on the iPhone too but with the big screen it's much easier on the iPad. Likewise the big screen made it easier to research some of the towns we visited or passed through. Interested in the history of Kyneton, Victoria? We stopped there for a pie and I can recommend the bakery in the high street; their pies are excellent (The other great meat pies on the journey are at the Holbrook Bakery on the Hume Highway in Holbrook - do try them if you're driving that way). Kyneton didn't look like a typical gold rush town compared to nearby Castlemaine and Bendigo, and two minutes later the iPad and Wikipedia gave us its history so we explored briefly before heading on - it's a lovely place to visit as are the other two. Despite the email issues travelling with the iPad rather than the laptop was a liberating and positive experience. I actually felt like I had a holiday without having to take my mobile desk with me, even though I did have to do some client work on the trip. This is usual; I haven't had a proper holiday where I can simply switch off and pass the buck to someone else in ten years. As a small business owner I don't think I'm alone here. The iPad can't replace a desktop or a laptop, but it is powerful enough to keep you in touch, let you communicate, and give you the ability to make the most of your leisure time away from the desk. It will certainly be my 'holiday computer' in the future.