Google Is Shaping a Smartphone Future Without Apps

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Before Apple's iPhone, applications were not a word associated with phones. Steve Jobs essentially created something, with the iPhone, that consumers didn't even know they wanted, and businesses didn't know would become highly relevant to their company. Google is doing something now that might seem just as strange as when Apple first introduced applications -- Google is creating a smartphone world without apps.

Enter the Physical Web
The way smartphones are currently designed, whether it be Android, iOS, or Windows, a user must download applications, and with those apps a user can then buy tickets, book a flight, get news, check their bank accounts, etc. However, Google foresees a smartphone world where applications play a less meaningful, or maybe no role whatsoever in the user experience.

Recently, Google unveiled a new project called The Physical Web, which basically brings to life a world without apps. Google defines The Physical Web by saying, "People should be able to walk up to any smart device -- a vending machine, a poster, a toy, a bus stop, a rental car -- and not have to download an app first. Everything should be just a tap away."


While still in the developmental stage, consumers are already experiencing a bit of what Google may be trying to accomplish.

Source: iPad screen-shot of Google application with Cards

On the Google application, the company uses "Cards." Based on a user's location, prior interests, appointments, etc., Google can provide information such as the weather, how certain stocks perform on a typical day, how your favorite sports team performed in a game, what a user should watch on TV, or news updates. All of this information is presented without additional applications.

The Internet of Things connection
If Google wanted to make a smartphone with its own application as the only operating system it would have already done so. Instead, The Physical Web is about connecting all smart devices with one operating system, and allowing those devices to collect data until the device using The Physical Web understands its owner, and what he or she wants.

All things considered, Google's vision is quite innovative in a world that values some applications up to $20 billion (WhatsApp). But Google is hoping to monetize and capitalize on the Internet of Things movement, where people, cars, houses, airports, retail stores, restaurants, etc. are all saturated with hardware and software that seemingly has a mind of its own.

According to Cisco, there will be 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020, and IDC estimates that 20% of all money spent on Internet of Things will go toward software. Hence, Google has a good shot to capitalize on this market, given it already has a market leading presence with the Android operating system.

However, when that day of 50 billion Internet-connected devices and 20% of total revenue comes, it may not be practical to arm an operating system created for each individual device type. Already, Google makes software for multiple devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, watches, among others, and none of the operating systems for these device types have an identical appearance. With The Physical Web, all devices would use the same operating system, which bodes well for Google's place in the Internet of Things.

Foolish Thoughts
The Physical Web might very well be an early glimpse into the future of smartphones, or at least how they operate. This notion is amplified given Apple's iBeacon, which is a location service that notifies an application when a user arrives or leaves one of its physical locations. Therefore, an application owner, such as Dunkin Donuts, can send its user a coupon while in its stores. Apple's iOS 8 also offers app suggestions based on location, interests, popularity, etc.

While Apple's technology hardly sways away from apps, it does show that the two top software providers for smartphones, who collectively own over 95% of the smartphone market (according to netmarketshare.com), both see opportunity in giving users information based on location and reported interests. The difference, of course, is the lack of apps for Google's vision, and the fact that Google appears to be placing huge bets in having a market leading presence in the Internet of Things. After all, 50 billion devices equals a lot of advertising dollars and business opportunities for Google.

Aside from Google, here's another company to become dominant in the Internet of Things
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The article Google Is Shaping a Smartphone Future Without Apps originally appeared on Fool.com.

Brian Nichols owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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