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TechnologyJan 15, 2010

mCommerce – mCommerce Decisions Part 1 – Native Application or Platform Independent Application?

Andrew Warden

Many businesses and retailers, in particular, are deciding when and how to move beyond eCommerce and into the mCommerce space. One of the most important decisions they can make early in this process is whether to opt for an independent platform or a native one.

For the purposes of this blog, I am defining a platform independent solution as a lightweight browser-based web application designed specifically for mobile devices. Native applications are defined as solutions running on the mobile device operating system making use of handset software and hardware controls.

Platform independence generally will allow you to reach the broadest audience with the fastest iteration or cycle times, while native platforms generally offer the richest features and customer mobile experience – such as integration with calendars, contacts, and location services.

In general, the platform independent solution works best under the following situations:

  • The need to reach as many mobile devices is critical

  • The products and services that are offered are simple and do not require access to native features of the mobile handset

  • There is no need to store information directly on the mobile device

  • Users require a network connection to purchase goods and services

  • Ad-sales is not a primary revenue generating lever

  • Speed to market is a major driver for the mobile offering

  • There are no plans to build additional in-house competencies to support Objective C, Java ME, etc.

  • There are plans for several releases which will introduce new functionality

Likewise, the native platform solution is best suited for the following situations:

  • A requirement exists to run the application on a specific platform (e.g., need to support BlackBerry phones which are the featured corporate mobile device, etc.)

  • The value proposition requires the use of native controls and rich content (e.g., user location, integration with contacts, etc.)

  • Application information must be stored on the device

  • Ad-sales is a primary revenue generating lever

  • Processor speed is important

  • Speed to market is not a major concern

Most, if not all, of these situations should be pondered before jumping into mCommerce, but the key factor in my mind is whether your mCommerce solution needs to reach the broadest audience (think platform independence) or whether your customer base needs the richest set of features, such as contacts, calendars, location services, etc. (think native application).