Apple vs the World

One of the biggest decisions for mobile marketers this year is whether they should build a mobile site or app — or both. And for advertisers, the question is whether to advertise on mobile sites, apps, or both.

But there is a bigger question here on where mobile is going. With Google betting on mobile web and search as the future, and Apple taking the app route, it is still not clear which platform consumers will prefer in coming years. Because of this fragmented mobile browsing experience, developing either can seem like a huge commitment to marketers, especially since mobile spending currently makes up less than 5% of marketing budgets in many organizations.

Furthermore, with the number of different device types, operating systems, and screen sizes available, the decision can be even more daunting. Even for advertisers, mobile ad creation can be a pain, as ad unit sizes vary across platforms. Because of the intricacies of mobile, less than a third of U.S. marketers think optimizing the mobile marketing experience is important to their customers, according to an April 2010 survey by eROI. Furthermore, just 23% of marketers responding to the survey reported having a mobile-optimized website.

It is estimated that by 2014 half of Americans’ web browsing will be done on mobile devices. Aaron Maxwell, the founder of Mobile Web Up, a company that specializes in helping small and mid-sized businesses mobilize their websites, spoke about the importance of that not-so-distant prediction, and what it means for mobile advertisers and marketers:

What does this mean for companies and organizations? If they depend on their web presence in any way, it’s important to start thinking about mobile now… checking how their website looks and works, or doesn’t, on mobile devices. Mobile internet use is growing faster than nearly anyone realizes. To them, I’d say: Don’t wait until 25% of your website visitors are using handhelds — that’s like waiting until a quarter of your backyard is on fire before grabbing a water hose! Start thinking NOW about how to make your website work hard for you on mobile devices.”

In the coming year, expect to see a larger debate on where mobile is going. With the onslaught of app stores, including Blackberry App World, Android Market, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, the App Store for Symbian, the Palm app store, and, of course, Apple’s iPhone app store, it doesn’t look like the app is going anywhere anytime soon. But it should be an interesting debate at the very least.

Dharmaji commented on the evolution of mobile web and apps, saying, “Apple is all about mobile apps, and Google is all about the mobile web. How the system will evolve, whether apps or web will be the chosen mobile solution, I have no idea, but I think that both of the platforms will co-exist. For advertisers, the most crucial part is presenting the ad. How the consumer accesses the ad, will not matter.”

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