Everyone’s buzzing about a new Flurry Analytics study that finds daily time spent in mobile apps exceeds desktop/mobile Web consumption for the 1st time. It’s an amazing shift if you really think about it: Apps are the new browsers. And even though Web browsers often give users much more freedom than an app designed for a specific function, consumers are choosing apps over browsing for their connectivity needs. It’s really about convenience and user-friendliness, combined with greater wireless data usage and wrapped in the overall reality that people prefer to use apps when retrieving info in a mobile environment. What can cable learn from this? Plenty.
Early attempts at interactive TV essentially ported the PC browser to the TV environment, and the results were disastrous. None of those early iTV firms took off, and many went out of business or got absorbed into larger companies that really just wanted the patents and/or technology for various purposes. The browser didn’t work in the TV environment. And it’s clunky in the mobile environment as well. Sure, mobile versions of Websites work pretty well on smartphones, but people are voting with their usage patterns and generally choosing apps when they are available (Many apps, of course, simply display mobile Web pages, but there’s something aesthetically appy about how they look that makes us all forget that we’re in a browser experience). Even in the traditional computer environment, apps are making a play, with Apple’s recent launch of a version of its App Store in the Mac environment. Again, it’s an amazing shift.
In the cable set-top environment, the traditional EPG and VOD menus are essentially old school browsers based on how we used to search for TV content. No one really wants to use a remote control to spell out the name of a show or search for VOD content. And as Comcast chief Brian Roberts’ presentation at the Cable Show reminded us, a more streamlined and app-like interface—complete with easy “share” buttons, recommendation engines and intuitive ways to find something that leads to something else that leads to something else—simply feels better. Sure, you can do these sorts of things in a browser-esque environment (Amazon has done it well for years), but like the mobile environment that must conform to a smaller screen, the TV environment must conform to eyeballs that are farther away and therefore less willing to type or hunt around for content.
With EBIF-fueled apps starting to gain acceptance, CE manufacturers making more connected TVs and Roberts out there pushing the envelope, rest assured that app usage will only continue to climb. And it will happen on every platform, including TV. Get ready.
(Michael Grebb is Executive Editor of CableFAX).