January 19, 2013

“Are apps just a fad?”

This post from August got lost in cyberspace, but it’s back now!

The question lingered in the air, and I found myself standing in front of a board room of educators. They had volunteered their time to provide Jeff and I with presentation practice before the upcoming business plan competition. My knee jerk reaction was they’re a fad like the internet was.

Of course I didn’t say that, choosing the far more diplomatic answer of No. However, as we’ve grown this business and met with people outside the tech world the question does come up. What does the future of apps look like? What’s the next technology that’s going to surpasses apps like they did the internet?

My first response is that the internet (if it can be considered a single entity) produces billions, if not trillions of dollars in revenue around the world and is still growing fast. So to say that the internet has been replaced, is a logical fallacy. It does seem to have lost some of its luster though (see recent Facebook IPO). In its place are new stories reminiscent of the dot come boom about teenagers building apps in their garage and going on to sell them for a billion dollars like Instagram.

Apps themselves will surely become a stable form of business and revenue generation (the top 25 apps each made $54 million dollars last year on average). They will however, eventually morph into something new. When you consider apps at their most basic functionality, they’re unique software programs that make our life easier and facilitate a better interaction between human and machine.

Generation 1 of apps was video games and software programs that you purchased and downloaded to your computer. Generation 2 were highly customized and affordably built software programs that moved with the speed of your life, tucked securely away on your phone or tablet. Generation 3 will be an expanded eco-system of hardware and machines that interact with humans through a software interface.

In-deed this movement to the next phase is already occurring. Consider the new Coke machines that have LCD screens built into the front of them; the old levers have been replaced with interactive buttons that allow you to combine your favorite flavors into new and unique creations. Another great example are Subway toaster ovens that have replaced buttons and time commands, with interactive interfaces where you simply select the sandwich the customer wants from a visual menu.

We see this trend continuing beyond these two examples to include surface tables, windows, car dashboards, heads up  displays, augmented eye sight (check out Google Glass) and eventually holograms. Although this last option seems a bit farfetched, check out this great article by Ben Kunz of Bloomberg Businessweek to see what I mean.

So are apps a fad? No. In reality they’re just another step in the evolution of technology. A process that began with stationary software on your desktop, expanded to your mobile devices and will eventually move into every other piece of machinery that you use on a daily basis. The future is going to be an exciting place, and those who are positioned to capture this exponential growth across hundreds of hardware devices are going to do exceptionally well.


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