Exclusive: Apple Is Now Working With This Key Google-Backed App Technology

August 4, 2017, 10:39 PM UTC

There may hope for people who are sick of the endless cycle of downloading, updating, and deleting apps on their iPads and iPhones and other devices.

Apple (AAPL) is starting to work with key Google-backed technologies that underlie a new generation of apps that will not require downloads. Microsoft and others have already pledged support for this set of technologies known collectively as Service Workers.

Apple started work this week on integrating at least part of the technology in future releases of its software, according to a website that tracks Apple development projects on its Safari browser and iOS operating system,

Apple did not respond to requests for comment. But according to an unofficial Apple roadmap posted online in 2015, Apple was considering adopting Service Workers technology at that time. Other than that post, and the development site linked above, Apple has been mum on the subject.

Related: App Fatigue Takes its Toll on Smartphone Users

Apps built with Service Workers, called Progressive Web Apps, do not require downloads. All you have to do is point your browser at a website, and you’re in the app, which you can then add to your home screen for easier access. Examples include the Lancôme cosmetics and Payless shoe sites. Users who opt into “push notifications” can receive special offers or notices about discounts.

Widespread adoption of apps using the new technology could result in a number of changes to the overall app system. For one thing, if you don’t need to download or otherwise manage app software or updates, there is less need to visit an app store. Clearly that could be a problem for Apple, which has turned its app store into a power base. Looked at another way, users could still decide to download progressive apps from a store, but it is difficult to see why they would.

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If software developers can build one app that runs on Apple iPhones and iPads, and Microsoft and Google (GOOGL) browsers and operating systems, it saves time, money. Up till now, they’ve had to build separate “native” apps for Apple iOS, and others for Google Chrome and Android and Firefox.

The promise is that these new web apps look just as good those native apps, are faster, and can run on five billion devices out on the mobile web, says Igor Faletski, CEO of Mobify, a Vancouver, B.C. company that specializes in mobile app development for businesses, including Lancôme and Payless.

“This is potentially a worlds collide moment,” he said.

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