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

Apple’s 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, 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.


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