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When It Comes to Mobile Phones, Consumers Aren't Pro-choice

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Apple’s (s aapl) success in mobile computing can be attributed to consumers who aren’t really into infinite choices, according to a Forrester report released today. The report, by Sarah Rottman Epps, a Forrester analyst, calls the current proliferation of mobile apps “curated computing,” and said it’s the wave of the future. As Epps writes in a blog post:

Think of it this way: A consumer can do anything with a Windows PC or Mac, like run commands, install robust software, connect easily to peripheral devices, and save files locally. The iPad operates very differently. Its operating system works more like a jukebox than a desktop — consumers choose (and pay for) applications from a predetermined set list. Each of those applications is, in itself, also curated; the publisher selects content and functionality that’s appropriate to the form factor, just as a museum curator selects artworks from a larger collection to exhibit in a particular gallery space.

While we don’t think of it as curated computing — personalized or task-oriented computing sounds a bit more down to earth — the question of whether people want less choice is an important one for many vendors outside of Apple. The idea that we need curated computing because the form factor is limited, while true today, but will it continue to be true as we get more advanced UIs and firms begin designing apps for mobile rather than for the traditional PC environment? As my colleague Kevin asked this week, will the pendulum swing from apps back to the web?

I think when Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google (s goog), said last month that all software should be designed for mobile first, that’s because he needs folks to build (and users to adopt) web-based software for personalized computing that doesn’t rely on apps. The reason? Google doesn’t want lose its place between the user and the web in an app-dominated world.

But if task-oriented computing becomes the norm, it also perpetrates a cycle in which the best developers works on apps, as opposed to web-based or other types of software. If apps are a passing fad to bridge the transition between the desktop model of computing and mobile computing, what does that mean for the multibillion-dollar app economy (GigaOM Pro sub req’d)?

We may not agree over what to call it, but Epps’ point that we’re currently seeing a more limited role of choice in computing makes for significant changes for a variety of players. Which, honestly, is why mobile is such a fun place to be right now.

8 Responses to “When It Comes to Mobile Phones, Consumers Aren't Pro-choice”

  1. Not seeing the conflict here. You can have installed applications and web applications. Most smartphones – not tablets, they’re a passing fad at least as far as mobility is concerned because most of them won’t move further than 5 metres from your couch or bed – will have core applications installed (which… err… they pretty much always have) and the consumer can either download something from a selection of stores or use an on-line applications.

    No curation is necessary although guidance and recommendation certainly are.

  2. Yes, consumers want less choice and they want single function “devices.” I have a food processor, a blender, a coffee grinder, a hand blender, etc. But if I move my house I get to take them with me…

    But that doesn’t mean that functionality has to be an application… YET Apple has trained users to click to download, and make a seamless purchase through their store. It is trusted and doesn’t require registration(s).

    Pay web sites need to work as easily, quickly, with as much trust AND WITH as much fun; down loading a tune or an app is a bit like finding the prize in the cracker jacks.. it’s exciting and rewarding.. even if you never use it again.

    The big way web site win is that they can move from device to device; we change devices every 2 years. A family of 4 might have 10+ devices. Some day they will get tried of paying for all those apps again and again (maybe?? maybe not??)

  3. Brian, you’re absolutely right. As Jason Fried already pointed out RE the Flash Catfight, there’s no curation at work when you have 100’s of thousands of apps.

    Forrester is full of baloney. From the customer’s perspective there are so many choices they can hardly see it as curation.

  4. Edwin

    Wow, what staggering ignorance. Do you want the guy you bought your TV or radio from having any say over what you play on it? The iPad in particular but the iPhone too are general purpose devices, they should play anything the purchaser wants them to play. I’m not saying curation is bad, but I want to choose my curator and he/she might not be the same guy who happened to make or sell me my general purpose playback device.

  5. Can’t agree with any of this.
    Smartphones are spreading around the world, empowering hundreds of millions and soon billions of people. They are expanding not only choice, but opportunity.

    As for apps — on my iPhone I can choose from among 200,000 or so apps, thousands of which are free. Only a couple years ago, Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft (and EA et al) limited my choice and demanded I pay $40 for a game. A few software publishers, notably Microsoft, required I pay hundreds of dollars for software.

    If you got more out of those programs and non-mobile computing devices, good for you. As for me, choice had been radically expanded. I think this is also so for most of the world.