Browser-based apps: the pressing problem of network coverage
The mGaming Summit held in London on Wednesday - see a précis of the event courtesy of the lovely Becky Liggero from Calvin Ayre here - provided some interesting food for thought, not merely on the mobile gambling industry, but also with regards to the direction of mobile content and services in general. (All credit, incidentally to World Telemedia and the equally lovely Mr Paul Skeldon for staging what was an exceptionally well-organised, well-structured and well-attended conference.) Anyway, during the event I chaired a panel on “Unlocking App Stores and M-web”, where the various pros and cons of browser-based and native apps were discussed by Deri Jones of SciVisum, Marcus Wareham of mFuse, Matt Jellicoe of Offsidegaming, Henrik Mandal of Kyoogi and James Mooney of GetJar. And with the perhaps understandable exception of James Mooney, who nobly fought the corner of the native app, there was a broad consensus that the future would be browser-based. Certainly, there are some persuasive arguments in this regard, not least the fact that HTML5 will allow much deeper integration with the handset, thereby obviating one of the main advantages that the native app currently possesses. Furthermore, it also means that developers are not obliged to develop for multiple OSs – let alone then sit back and twiddle their thumbs while their app store of choice decides whether or not to offer their application. (As you might imagine, this is a particularly vexatious procedure for gambling apps, which to both service and platform providers seems to be conducted in a manner which is both capricious and arbitrary.) So there I was, nodding in agreement; the browser-based apps have it. Except for one small thing: network coverage. My cellular network reception at the event was precisely nil. Zip. Nothing. Making Paul’s exhortation at the outset to turn our mobile phones off rather redundant. The event venue – King’s Fund on Cavendish Square – is not alone in providing me with a big fat zero on the reception front. Many, many buildings, anxious not to be outdone in this regard, have come up with a similar offer whenever I try to access the Internet or even to ring the office. Likewise, few train journeys are complete without coverage disappearing without trace. (Indeed, for those on my particular phone network seeking travel uninterrupted by telephone calls, I can recommend the stretches between Fareham and Woking, and London Victoria and Crawley, as providing virtually no signal whatsoever.) For an industry which is moving inexorably towards a cloud-based/browser-based model, this is rather problematic. Sure, HTML5 allows caching so that you can access material when offline, but this is rather based around a presupposition that at some point in the past you have actually succeeded in getting online. The problem is that for all the MNO wailings and gnashings of teeth around excess data usage, the fact remains that there is a paucity of network coverage , both in-building and in rural areas, and this needs to be addressed so that, to put it bluntly, the desired model works in practice. And, quite frankly, given the pace of change elsewhere in the industry, it needs to be addressed soon.