Since upgrading my iPhone to the 2.0 software, I’ve dived into Apple’s app store and I’ve been making a point of trying out apps from across the store but focusing on content creation tools (such as the excellent WordPress app which I’m using to write this post). At the same time, I’ve continued to make use of all the great iphone webapps and mobile Web sites I’ve come to know and love. Increasingly, across many platforms (not just iPhone) application developers and content providers will  face this choice: to build a webapp or to build a native app. There are advantages to both approaches, and some work that’s just getting started that I believe will significantly change the face of mobile development over the next 2 years. The rush of content and application developers to develop iPhone apps has been impressive and somewhat predictable. The app store is the next big thing. Google, Microsoft and others are now jumping on the bandwagon (probably much to the dismay of the folks at Handango who can rightly claim they’ve been doing an app store since before app stores were cool). Many of the apps in the Apple app store are really good and could not (currently) be written as web apps because they either take advantage of device capabilities (such a location) or because they need direct access to graphics or sound capabilities (3D gaming) not available to the browser engine. However – discounting this need to access the platform functions, there’s nothing about, say, the iPhone Facebook …

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Opera arguably reinvented the mobile browser with the original release of Opera Mini. The innovation of Opera Mini was to be able to fit four quarts into a one pint jug. By putting most of the guts of the browser into a smart proxy layer, they were able to create a smart browser that could be downloaded and installed on most phones, not just so-called smart phones. Opera’s new Mini, announced this week, isn’t just an incremental upgrade. The new Opera Mini plugs directly in to the phone camera to allow photo blogging directly from within the browser environment. See here for an example of this (Charles McCathieNevile snapped this at the W3C Advisory Committee meeting here in Tokyo – I think he got my good side). So why is this revolutionary? Of course, it allows users to bypass MMS and other operator-sanctioned photo sharing mechanisms, but that’s no big news. Other downloadable applications have enabled photo upload and mobile blogging, but in integrating this function into the browser, Opera has turned Mini into a read/write application. The browser, traditionally the tool used to consume information, becomes a sophisticated content creation mechanism as well. Users who otherwise might not go through the trouble to download and install a photo blogging application will suddenly find they have this capability. Of course, desktop browser users already enjoy this kind of capability through Ajax applications and browser plug-ins but these capabilities have not been present on the mobile platform. And by the way, photo blogging isn’t the only new …

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