The Application Is Dead; Long Live the App


With every revolution there is change. Sometimes the change is the reason for the revolution, and other times it’s an unexpected outcome. With the dawn of the iOS platform and the introduction of both the iPhone as well as the iPad, certain changes in the way we use technology were to be expected. One of the unexpected changes was in the way developers design and develop software, and this appears to have a much farther reaching impact than you might have imagined.

Origins of the Revolution

The bulk of the credit does not go to Apple. it actually started with the communication revolution brought on by the likes of Twitter and Facebook as well as the simplicity of Google’s search interface. Highly-optimized, single-purpose, rapidly-developed solutions that improve without necessarily expanding over time. What Apple did was provide an ecosystem for developers to create their own rendition of this paradigm: apps. This trend may have started in the cloud, but with the introduction of the App Store, the iPhone was commercialized into a go-to market strategy that developers could quickly capitalize on. It wasn’t until these smart devices truly conquered multitasking that individualized workflows started to evolve.

Multitasking Workflows on Smart Devices

As an example, consider the options available for posting a photo online. There are several different choices of camera apps, several different choices of photo editing and manipulation apps, even more choices if you want to make a collage or crop your photo into a custom frame, and of course, several different solutions to post online and announce your posting to your personal community of followers. Apps are being designed to get along with one another in what is quite possibly an infinite solution set of combinations.

The Trend Is Spreading to Your Desktop

This trend to create single-purpose, highly-optimized apps is spreading to your desktop as well. The Mac App Store is proving to be a great medium for exposing workstreams of integration points similar to those seen on mobile devices between OS X apps. What’s further fueling this revolution in app design is the growth of cloud-based services that support such single-purpose designs. The techniques being employed to define an API have been moving away from a tightly-coupled, Schema-based paradigm and toward a more open and loosely coupled Restful paradigm.

Enterprise Caught Off Guard

This reality scares enterprise. With the costs of personal IT reaching ridiculously low levels, the ability of individuals to self-fund their own IT services is not only possible, it is becoming as common place as cable television. From broadband to wireless data access, to online email, data storage and even more specialized tools, ideas and collaboration services, individuals are spreading their corporately-owned intellectual property all over the place.

Even Apple has decided to pull apart their iLife and iWork suites, which furthers this trend. What do you think? Have your daily app usage trends changed? Do you find you are using more single-purpose apps each day, and/or fewer, general-purpose apps than you have in the past?

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