Many companies developing mobile applications are currently deliberating whether it is better to deliver one or more best-of-breed point applications vs. a suite of integrated applications.

The iPhone AppStore is dominated by best-of-breed applications, where each icon on the iPhone desktop is a gateway to a focused, single-purpose application. Pandora is a great example, where a simple icon opens a killer web-radio application that is receiving rave reviews.

Examples of integrated suites include Lightpole and Where for the Blackberry Curve. Focus on location-based services, each of these applications acts as a portal into a suite of related, location based applications. Lightpole features ‘channels’ that offer me location aware versions of Wikipedia, Yelp and Yahoo! Local, while Where offers me a suite of location aware applications like StubHub, Zipcar, Flickr and Yelp and a set of location aware widgets like BuddyBeacon, GasFinder, etc. Unfotunately, it seems like much more time was invested in the portal and the suite, rather then the individual applications, and most of the applications and widgets in both these service are disappointing;

I’m firmly in favor of the best of breed approach, for a couple of reasons:

  • One, the vendors focused on standalone, best-of-breed applications seem to be intelligently focused on building applications that will delight consumers and drive high levels of usage and engagement (See TechCrunch’s review of Pandora). I’d prefer to see platform vendors and location vendors like Lightpole and Where focus on enabling application vendors building best-of-breed applications, rather than trying to build suites.
  • Two, we don’t need any more portals like AOL. The beauty of the iPhone and new mobile browsers is that they offer unfettered access to an open internet, without the need to selectively port it onto different mobile platforms and carrier decks. Walled gardens are bad, and are finding more resistance than ever. The biggest knock on the AppStore is that it doesn’t practice what it preaches, and creates a walled portal that is the only place to download iPhone apps:

“It’s easy to argue that the App Store just trades one walled garden for another, but what the hell, we’ll happily take Apple’s over AT&T’s.” (from Engadget)

It’s a sharp contrast to the open experience of downloading plug-ins to Firefox, and one I hope ends sooner than later.

Bottom line: I’m betting on best-of-breed.

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