I had a good laugh reading Jeff Atwood’s humorous but spot-on post about the profusion of web sites that decide you need to be using their app instead the browser. Of course I immediately reflected on my own mobile browsing experience, which is quite different. Why? Because I have neither an iDevice nor a ‘droid. OK, if you have to know, I have a Surface RT.
It’s often stated as a drawback and a sign of a failing platform that there aren’t many apps for the RT. In fact I never miss them. There are two critical differences between the RT and iDevices: Flash, and a pointing device*. With those two little additions, all of a sudden the web becomes usable again, and the app store becomes an amusing distraction rather than a necessity.
Did Apple deliberately cripple the web browsing experience on the iThings so as to drive people to the app store? I suspect not, but it certainly has worked out nicely for them, hasn’t it?
The other nice thing about the RT is that most web sites don’t even recognize it as a mobile device. That means I’m spared the bizarre sub-functional obfuscations that constitute the majority of mobile-specific web sites. Quite happy to pinch-zoom when necessary, thank you very much. Drop-down menus? Meet my trackpad.
So my hypothesis is that the app-pocalypse is largely driven by a broken web browsing experience, and Microsoft have shown (if it wasn’t obvious) that it never had to be broken in the first place.
* I would bet that vanishingly few Surfaces are sold without one of the two “covers”, both of which have a pointing device built in. And unlike most of the iPad cover+keyboard solutions, which double or triple the weight and bulk of the device, once you have a Surface cover attached there’s really no reason not to have it attached all the time. But Microsoft really should have bundled the cover with the device in the first place.