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Do you prefer Microsoft Word or Google Docs? How about Mac Mail or Gmail? The question of “apps” vs. “websites” has been around for quite some time on the desktop.

The same question has now gone mobile. Should you get eBay’s iPhone app or go to m.ebay.com? Most major properties today have both an app presence and a website. Why do they need both?

Users don’t care if they’re using an “app,” a “website,” or any hybrid of the two. They care about a clean, well-designed, engaging experience that lets them do whatever they want as quickly as possible. Right now, the best user experience – by far – is a native mobile app.

Like many of you, I’m a big fan of openness, and believe in the long run the mobile web is likely the future.  However, we are a long way from mobile websites acting and feeling to users like native apps. That key difference means real money.

eBay did $2 billion in mobile commerce sales in 2010. 70% of this came from their app, 30% from their mobile website. Even more interesting, users of their iPhone app spent an average of $65/week, and iPad users spent $85/week, which is 50% higher than the average desktop web user. Think about that – the same customers spending 50% more for the same products. Why? It’s a better and easier experience to buy. To put it another way, in 2010 eBay did $400M more on their mobile app than their mobile website.

A few predictions for mobile in 2011:

1. Android (Google) will become the biggest mobile operating system in the world, surpassing Symbian (Nokia) and iOS (Apple). The combination of great user experience, every major device manufacturer, and every carrier on board will overwhelm others

2. The current gap between mobile advertising rates compared to the amount of time we spend on mobile will narrow, increasing mobile CPMs and giving publishers more value for their content. This will lead to a shift in advertisers paying more for ads on mobile, and shifting more of their spend to mobile overall

3. Apps will continue to explode and be a key factor in driving growth for any smartphone OS

4. By the end of the year, there will be three major mobile smartphone operating systems; the world simply doesn’t need more. The rest will be consolidated and/or fizzle out

5. Tablets will continue to find their place in our busy lives; the future of a 7-inch tablet vs. 10-inch remains to be seen

6. Mobile commerce will explode across the board; iTunes remains the best way to sell digital content easily, requiring users to only enter a password. Other properties selling both digital and physical will continue to play catch up to this gold standard. Two things to watch out for are increased carrier billing and more built-in Paypal integration

7. Near field communication (the technology that allows short range exchange of data, wirelessly between two devices) will explode into the mainstream and be built into cell phones. It’s already built into Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” and rumored to be built into the next major release of iOS. Using our phones to pay for everyday things (think “paypass” on credit cards or London’s “oyster” card) via our phone will be commonplace.

Michaeel Schneider is CEO of Mobile Roadie, notably makers of MIDEM’s official mobile apps. He hosts a special “How to Make and Monetise your Artist’s Mobile App” session for managers at MIDEM, January 23, 12.00.


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