TECHNOLOGY: The future of apps
by Dan Burrus
February 1, 2011
No one can deny the impact of the technological revolution that has transformed the humble telephone into a mini-personal computer capable of so much more than traditional voice communication.
And with the advent of Smart Phones the devices keep getting … well, smarter. You can now download applications directly to your phone to help you with any number of everyday tasks. Whether you want to check flight schedules, create a to-do list, convert currency, track your daily caloric intake, relax to soothing sounds, and more, chances are there’s an app for it.
As a result, businesses in every sector have been creating apps directly related to their core offerings. Some would even say that companies are scrambling to enter the apps market, believing that attracting additional customers and revenues is directly related to their app offerings.
Is creating apps a smart thing for businesses to do? Of course. Just as the phone has evolved, so has business. Having the ability to touch your customers when they’re not in your store or on your Web site is vital to staying competitive. However, as technology and smart phones continue to evolve it only makes sense that the apps will change too. And that’s exactly where many companies are missing the mark. While creating apps with mass-market appeal is good (such as apps for finding a good restaurant or creating action lists), few companies are thinking about the evolution of apps and what the next generation of apps will be.
So what exactly will tomorrow’s apps look like? The natural progression will be for them to be enterprise level. There will be a need for apps for purchasing, for logistics, for supply chain management, for lead generation, for patient care, etc. Tomorrow’s apps will be like having a virtual assistant by your side. They won’t just make you more productive, they’ll actually do some of the work for you. For example, in the medical field, we’ll see apps for disease management, for patient records and for remote diagnostics. They will be essential tools that perform specific functions, not just ancillary items.
The future of apps is also about where they will be used. With Apple’s launch of the iPad, soon to be followed by competing smart pads by other manufacturers, apps are already finding new homes outside of the phone.
Some smart phone apps already are compatible with smart pads. But even those companies aren’t thinking big enough, literally and figuratively. Since the smart pads have bigger screens and more processing power, why should their apps do the same thing as the phone app? Why not take advantage of that extra space and power to come up with a new class of apps that can do things the phone apps can’t? These are key questions companies must think about and address if they want to be serious players in tomorrow’s app market.
But that’s just the beginning. Part of this next evolution is apps for television. Today’s newer televisions already are Internet-enabled. (And, by the way, all our devices will be Internet-enabled one day.) That means the processor and the television browser are built into the set. You don’t have to plug a computer into your television. The TV is the computer.
With this comes the wide-scale use of Internet Protocol Television, or IPTV. It’s essentially TV over the Internet versus on cable or satellite. In fact, many Millennials already are using IPTV for all of their television viewing rather than cable or satellite. Knowing this, it’s only logical that we’ll also see apps for TV. Some new models already have them — television-level apps. Flat-panel displays provide even more visual real estate and will most likely have faster processors. Many new televisions are also 3-D-equipped, meaning your apps will be 3-D too.
As you can see, in the app world, this is a game-changer. Smart companies need to stay ahead of this evolution and create their apps accordingly. But if you look at the types of apps currently available you can see that most of the companies developing them don’t see the future. They’re doing basic, simplistic things that don’t take into account future needs. And they certainly aren’t thinking enterprise level. In fact, if you look for business apps in iTunes, the largest app store, you’ll find numerous apps for such things as document-scanning, creating to-do lists and document-sharing. Such apps are so common you could argue they’re commodities. But standing out in the business world requires you to be more than a commodity — you need to be a unique solutions provider. Tomorrow’s apps will let you do precisely that.
Understand the tectonic shift in computing that apps represent. Remember, we went from servers, main frames and terminals to having our own desktops and PCs to having our own laptops. Our main computing device is now becoming the smart phones and smart pads that enable us to connect to the world from anywhere. And as these continue to progress into multimedia PCs powered by dozens if not hundreds of apps, people will have a powerful computer with them at all times. From all walks of life and every industry, they’ll have the ability to do some amazing things they couldn’t do before.
That’s a revolution in thinking — and one your company needs to be a part of.
Daniel Burrus is considered a leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology-driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best seller Flash Foresight as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends.
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