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Apple and app streaming: Unlikely, but never say never

Gregg Keizer | Nov. 24, 2015
Strategic reasons are lacking for Apple to mimic Google's experiment with app streaming, but Cupertino may be pushed to follow suit.

"From Google's perspective, there's no reason why they wouldn't attempt this at some point," Singh said in an email interview. "This approach (if implemented at scale) would immediately render the 'iOS First' philosophy moot. iOS developers would be quite happy to get access to a massive user base with no additional development costs."


"I think you'd tend to get a lowest-common-denominator approach," countered Dawson, talking about the habit of some cross-platform developers to craft generic apps that, because they need to run and sport a similar user experience (UX) across all devices, eschew OS- or device-specific features.

The bigger question, though, was whether Apple -- and the far-behind, in-third-place ecosystem of Microsoft's Windows -- would follow Google into app streaming.

Dawson approached the question by looking at the strategic underpinnings of each company. "Does this model also serve consumers well? Or is this like so many efforts, from Google and other companies, primarily aimed at serving internal objectives and counter to what consumers want?" Dawson posed in a piece he posted to Tech.pinions the day after Google's announcement.

Dawson argued that while there were clearly some "consumer-friendly" benefits to users, there were also disadvantages, including the requirement of a strong Wi-Fi signal and substantial bandwidth. But overall, he saw Google's strategic rationales for app streaming as dominant. "Google's motivations behind app streaming are clearly driven, in large part, by its strategic imperative to feed the Web rather than native apps," he wrote on Tech.pinions.

"As long as [Google] can look inside apps and enable discovery, their monetization engine will remain strong," said Singh. "In fact, based on the amount of money that's spent on user acquisition, I'm sure Google views app advertising as an incredible revenue opportunity for them, [either] app-installs or app-streaming, whichever route developers pick."

And therein lies the answer to whether Apple would follow.

"Apple doesn't have the same strategic reasons to go down this road," said Dawson. The Cupertino, Calif. firm's app-centric model, which has been in place since 2008, serves Apple's overriding goal -- selling devices -- by promoting high-quality, often-iOS-first, even iOS-only, software.

Singh was just as sure as Dawson that Apple would steer clear of app streaming if it could. "I actually think Apple may be motivated to avoid this approach entirely," he said. "I'm a believer in business models being a strong predictor of company decisions. And it's in Apple's interest to keep as much intelligence on the device (their profit center) as possible."

That's not to say Apple wouldn't consider app streaming, whether a knock-off of Google's approach or something different, if users are attracted to the concept.


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