The following is an excerpt from Alex Bratton’s upcoming book, Billion Dollar Apps.
Note the difference in the words’ app’ and ‘application’. Even the name change directly relates to the slimming down of applications to a very focused set of functions.
Apps are changing the way we all use technology. Widespread adoption is occurring in the mobile world, but we first saw a broad introduction of apps (or widgets as they were called earlier) as part of dashboards on both Mac & Windows PCs. The concept of small programs that did one thing really well (displaying the weather, showing a stock ticker, telling time) had a lot of the right ideas but it failed at wide consumer adoption. Context switching to a special ‘apps’ mode on a desktop OS and pretty limited selection of widget apps didn’t give the user experience that we see today on mobile devices.
Serious enterprise apps combine very targeted functionality with real business models, amazing ease of use, connectivity to systems outside the mobile device and are built from the ground up to handle a bumpy real world where connectivity goes up and down.
Serious apps open the possibility of connecting mobile devices to the real world. Anything in the world with a motor can be integrated to an app providing control or status information. We’re seeing apps covering the gamut from remote vehicle control (toys and the real thing), controlling video surveillance systems and letting truck drivers control grain loading processes from inside the cab of the truck.
Apps living on our mobile devices have a tremendous advantage over our old desktops — they are always with us and always on. This means that the ‘smart agents’ the geeks have been talking about for 20 years finally have a nice warm home to curl up and gently sip on data streams. We’re already seeing apps starting to go this route with the ability to notify the user when something interesting in the world happens. A social networking app that can alert the user with a quick vibration of the device when a posting with a critical keyword becomes visible anywhere on the net gives that person the ability to immediately address a problem or opportunity.