Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moving Towards An App World

Google brought app development to the masses last week with the introduction of a free software tool call App Inventor.  I haven't played around with it yet, but from the reviews it sounds like Google is making it as easy to create an Android smartphone app as it to create a blog using their enormously popular Blogger platform.

And believe me, designing and launching a blog on Blogger is easy, rivaling in technical complexity, say, Microsoft Power Point.  App Inventor even uses the same drag and drop blocks of code featured on Blogger.

The initiative is another example of the free, open source environment Google is enabling in general, and specifically in the smartphone market as it competes head-to-head with Apple and it's more tightly controlled app development approach.

But how many apps do we need?  There are already 225,000 iPhone apps and 65,000 Android apps, with hundreds more being introduced every week.  New York Times tech and media columnist David Pogue challenged his Twitter followers to invent new iPhone and Android apps, featuring the more creative ones in his column last Thursday.  Ironically, the most compelling (and timely) app was not in David's column, but featured in another section on the Times called Gadgetwise.  This app tells you how much sun you should have and saves you from sunburn.

column in Ad Age last week went as far as to describe the "end of the web as we know it."  The columnist, Steve Rubel, refers to a Morgan Stanley study predicting that within 5 years Internet consumption on mobile devices will surpass the same activity on PCs.

He writes, " mobile devices, by their nature, force users to become more mission-oriented.  As more Internet consumption shifts to gadgets, it's increasingly becoming an app world and we just live in it.
Innovation, fun, simplicity and single-purpose utility will rule while grandiose design and complexity will fall by the wayside."

This seems to make sense.  Last year I downloaded the Pandora app to my iPod Touch and plugged it into my stereo.  This simple app quickly became the central hub for all my family's music consumption.

Just as media companies and advertisers are finally figuring out how to effectively present their content and information on the web, they will need to reinvent again for entirely new consumption patterns.