App stores are not the future, says Google

Apple customers may have downloaded 1.5bn applications from its AppStore in the past year for their iPhones and iPod touches, but the service does not represent the future for the mobile industry, according to Google.

Vic Gundotra, Google Engineering vice president and developer evangelist, (pictured centre) told the Mobilebeat conference in San Francisco on Thursday that the web had won and users of mobile phones would get their information and entertainment from browsers in future.

He claimed that even Google was not rich enough to support all of the different mobile platforms from Apple’s AppStore to those of the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Android and the many variations of the Nokia platform.

“What we clearly see happening is a move to incredibly powerful browsers,” he said.

“Many, many applications can be delivered through the browser and what that does for our costs is stunning.

“We believe the web has won and over the next several years, the browser, for economic reasons almost, will become the platform that matters and certainly that’s where Google is investing.”

Mr Gundotra won some support from the rest of the panel. Michael Abbott (pictured right), head of application software for Palm, said advances in the browser being introduced through HTML5 standards meant that web applications could tap features of particular phones such as their accelerometers.

Mr Gundotra pointed out that the latest version of the Safari Webkit-based browser on the iPhone allowed positioning technology on the phone to be used – Google’s home page can now display where users are located.

Webkit, which Apple had turned into an open-source project, was also powering the browsers on the Android and Palm operating systems.

Tero Ojanpera, head of services at Nokia (pictured left), said Nokia was helping web developers with its Qt cross-platform application framework.

Mr Gundotra said even Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, had said “Build for the web,” when the iPhone was launched, but the idea had met with resistance from developers at the time.

The timing was not right, he suggested, but “the rate of innovation in the browser [over the past 12 months] is surprising.”

“I think Steve really did understand that, over the long term, it would be the web, and I think that’s how things will play out.”