According to the latest study from Juniper Research, the market for cloud-based mobile applications will grow 88% from 2009 to 2014. The market was just over $400 million this past year, says Juniper, but by 2014 it will reach $9.5 billion. Driving this growth will be the adoption of the new web standard HTML5, increased mobile broadband coverage and the need for always-on collaborative services for the enterprise.
Cloud Apps in your Pocket
Mobile cloud computing is a term that refers to an infrastructure where both the data storage and the data processing happen outside of the mobile device from which an application is launched. To the typical consumer, a cloud-based mobile application looks and feels just like any app purchased or downloaded from a mobile application store like iTunes. However, the app is driven from the “cloud,” not from the handheld device itself. There are already a few well-known mobile cloud apps out there including Google’s Gmail and Google Voice for iPhone. When launched via iPhone homescreen shortcuts, these apps perform just like any other app on the iPhone, but all of their processing power comes from the cloud.
In the future, there will be even more applications like these available, but they won’t necessarily be mobilized web sites like those in Google’s line-up. Cloud-based mobile apps are perfectly capable of being packaged in a way that allows them to be sold alongside traditional mobile apps in mobile application stores, with no one but the developers any wiser.
HTML5 Paves the Way for Mobile Web’s Future
Earlier this year, ABI Research released a future-watching report called Mobile Cloud Computing which comes to many of the same conclusions as the new Juniper Research report. Where they both agree is on how HTML5 technology and the mobilized enterprise will help drive this trend forward. Specifically, HTML5, the proposed standard for the next version web markup language (the core language used to create the web), offers offline data caching. That means cloud-based mobile apps can behave just like their device-based cousins: when the Internet connection goes down, the app still works. In addition, HTML5-enabled apps resuming from cached mode only pull down the data from the server that changed during the time they were offline. That reduces server load which is a critical need in delivering mobile apps to developing nations and other regions where network coverage and connectivity is poor.
Enterprise Drives Mobile Growth
Like the earlier report from ABI, Juniper also sees the enterprise as a major force behind the move to the cloud. 75% of the mobile cloud-based application market is enterprise, notes the report. Mobile apps allow corporate users to access company data, share files, collaborate on projects and more via their smartphones. This business need will help fund the growth and development of the mobile cloud-based app market.
However, although enterprise will drive this growth, consumer-oriented apps will benefit, too. Over the next four years, these apps will comprise an increasing proportion of the total revenues with business plans that involve subscription-based content and mobile advertising.
The Power of the Cloud: Scale
Finally, the Juniper Report notes that the processing power of the cloud itself is also key to the future of mobile. Cloud-based mobile apps can scale far beyond the capabilities of any smartphone. Instead of being limited to the data storage and processing power contained in a mobile device, cloud apps have all the power of a server-based computing infrastructure accessible through an app’s mobile interface. This not only allows owners of low-cost “feature phones” (non-smartphones) the ability to access the same mobile applications used on more advanced platforms, it also allows the apps themselves to become more powerful and capable of more.
Cloud Apps in Relation to the Mobile Marketplace
What’s interesting about the dollar amount assigned to this trend – $9.5 billion by 2014 – is how that number compares to other analyst estimates for the mobile application store business as a whole. At the beginning of this year, Gartner researchers estimated that the app store businesses would generate nearly $7 billion this year and would reach $29.5 billion by 2013. Assumingly, it will grow even more by 2014 when the mobile cloud-based application market is expected to near $9.5 billion. In light of that comparison, the mobile cloud-based application trend seems impactful but perhaps less disruptive to the market as whole as is being purported. It appears there will still be plenty of room for both traditional, device-based apps and mobile cloud-based apps in the near future.