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Google has been pushing for mobile web sites — rather than downloadable mobile applications — for a while now. For example, Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra provocatively (if hyperbolically) declared at our MobileBeat conference July that Google isn’t “rich enough” to build apps for every smartphone. Google Ventures partner Wesley Chan stuck to this company line when he took the stage at the DEMO Spring 2010 conference today in Palm Desert, Calif.
Chan sat on an expert panel discussing the mobile products selected by VentureBeat Editor in Chief Matt Marshall to launch at DEMO. During the discussion, Matt pointed out that most of the predenting companies were showing off iPhone applications. Is that a bad sign for Google’s Android mobile operating system?
Not surprisingly, Chan was quick to highlight the progress that Android has made, stressing that 60,000 Android handsets are shipping every day. Then he encouraged companies to think cross-platform, so that they’re not just building for one phone. That means building apps “that can work on on Android, that can work on iPhone, that can work on BlackBerry, even.”
But it also means reaching any phone with a web browser by building web sites that are designed for mobile phones. It’s “very, very key,” Chan said, that users have an “alternate way” to access companies through their mobile browsers.
“The web is powerful,” he said. “Google has brought that out on the PC. Why can’t we do that on the mobile phone?”
Accel Partners’ Rich Wong, who was also on the panel, offered a different take on the situation. As he argued in a recent column, Wong said progress in mobile web technology doesn’t change the fact that the mobile landscape is fragmented, and will probably stay that way. Rather than resisting that fact, companies need to figure out the few smartphone platforms that are most important to them, and to focus on those.
“They need to deal with the reality and the realpolitik that fragmentation is going to exist,” Wong said.