By Jonny Evans
Digital transformation. Artificial intelligence. The Internet of Things. The mobile workforce. Even photo libraries capable of gathering themselves into their own collections, productivity and team management enhancements via a mobile device. All of these profound changes came into effect thanks to three things:
Apple, the iPhone, and the App Store
Think what was on the big stage when Apple CEO Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone keynote. The best available device at that time was (in my opinion) the Palm Treo.
Mobile manufacturers were at that time locked in a cycle of slowly introducing feature enhancements they could have introduced five years before. Phones were for calls and texting, and some of them had cameras.
The iPhone changed all that.
One year after the iPhone was introduced, the App Store showed what happens when you put the imagination of millions of already dedicated (mainly) Mac developers to work on a brand-new platform.
Now with added apps
We got excited about the apps — Shazam, Evernote, Apple’s Remote app, even Facebook (before its flood). We saw the potential as Apple introduced iWork for iOS and GarageBand, and a raft of music-making apps hit the scene.
Over the years, we’ve seen iPhones use apps to play symphonies, make movies and create world-famous art. We’ve seen iOS devices grow to include the iPad, and we’ve seen Microsoft Office join Salesforce (there since iPhone 3G) and a range of other key enterprise productivity apps on the platform.
We’ve seen millions of people employed in what Apple calls its “App Economy.” We have watched as developers created millions of apps. We’ve encountered new problems around app discovery, security, privacy, and more. We’ve learned a lot.
All these learnings led us to here. The place we’re in now sees many of us semi-permanently connected to our digital devices. These things (at least Apple’s things) have become the key tools we use to get our work done in the enterprise. Productivity is mobile. Teams are mobile. Everything is mobile, and our consciousness is permanently connected.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV mean even the television that we watch has become a mobile product. Within all these changes in consciousness and consumption, we’ve seen things like the Snowden revelations, Cambridge Analytica (and others) and their hacked elections, huge cyber-scams involving tens of millions of dollars in damages or lost income.
We’ve learned that the always-connected world is a pretty dangerous place, and there seems to be a growing awareness that privacy and security are critical. If we want to bring the world together, we need to make sure the people in it can choose to sit apart.
This impact really isn’t confined to puny humans.
We’ve seen digital devices proliferate across all parts of life: smart meters, smart agriculture, smart transportation infrastructure, smart homes, smart cities, Industry 4.0, and (up soon) smart cars. All connected by the network and often managed by mobile apps.
Apple doesn’t make all these solutions, but it has been instrumental in changing human habits and awareness enough that others could bring them to market. The networks have been working hard on this, too.
Think about how you live today in contrast to how you once existed. It’s quite clear that mobile and apps have impacted almost everything you do. We even pay for mass transit using a smartphone.
We can communicate with anyone, news travels as fast as electricity, and personalized everything is a few Siri algorithms away.
Where we are now, everything is mobile: Want a flat? AirBnB it. Looking for a ride? Uber it. Hungry? There’s an app for that. Project management? Slack. Sick? The digital health tidal wave is coming, and it will be profound — we already see iPads in operating rooms.
In developing economies, more people own smartphones than own landlines (leap-frogging limited infrastructure deployments when they do). Look closely, and you’ll see that Apple’s solutions underpin all this change — iPhones are the biggest-selling mobile device, and the App Store makes more money and has more engaged and active consumers than anyone else in the business. Perhaps Steve Jobs saw this coming?
3 predictions on what comes next for app development
Smartphones will eventually be replaced by a forest of other devices. We are looking to smart systems (cars and buses) and an increasingly smart infrastructure. Augmented reality (AR), machine intelligence, and new user interfaces based on speech, gesture and emotion are being beamed from the Star Trek transporter room into near-term view.
I spoke with ArcTouch co-founder Adam Fingerman to find out what he thinks will come next for app development. He offers three predictions:
1. More specialized workplace apps
“Over the next few years, we expect to see rapid acceleration in development of custom apps for the workplace. Large enterprises and progressive midsize companies will establish mobile centers of excellence to drive this internal innovation — providing the structure, platforms and best practices to successfully proliferate the workforce with apps.”
2. The rise of voice-powered apps and the VUI
“Voice is a very natural way to complete micro-tasks, and as consumers continue to get more comfortable with this experience, we expect massive growth in applications with a voice user interface (VUI) on a wide variety of platforms.”
3. The long tail of apps
As the app market matures we’ll see more firms providing specialized apps for small numbers of users. “The number of app users will never compare to Facebook or Twitter — but the value per user … is very high,” explained Fingerman. These solutions keep loyal customers “engaged with a more complete product experience, which ultimately creates demand.”
If you think everything is changing, you’re right
It’s been 10 years since Apple launched the App Store, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of what is possible when you place connected devices in every part of life.
Such profound and accelerated transformation is changing habits, work, and domestic life. It is also exposing deep societal weaknesses. It’s a realization of many of the ‘Future Shock’ predictions of Alvin Toffler. Change happens faster than humans can process it.
Mobile everywhere with apps for everything is — logically — also a realization of the notion of an (Apple) computer world and you are already in it. Happy tenth birthday, App Store.