I’m a generally simple soul and like to be able to express things in seven boxes (or fewer). It’s taken me a while to get my head around the way in which the world of developing software is changing to an extent that I can turn it into a diagram, but the catalyst for the boxes above was the comment I heard about Steve Jobs’ appearance at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference back in 1997, where he told disgruntled Apple developers that the company were in the business of producing their devices for consumers not for developers.
It strikes me that the “Apps” revolution (or probably more likely the revolution that we have seen since the mid-1990s in the development of the Internet and Web as a mass technology) has seen a more general shift in focus in that there is now a much greater consumer-centricity about the way in which successful information technologies are developed: put simply, great apps are developed for consumers, to enable them to do something. They aren’t developed for a platform, or an operating system, or even (business systems folk hold your hats here) for “supporting a process”.
The Apps revolution of the past four years – software being delivered to a device through an embedded marketplace of some description – reduces the “friction” of the ability for Apps to be distributed to consumers both by improving the ability for someone to find a particular App, and also (usually) by providing a single payment mechanism for a financial transaction to be made between the App’s author and user. Other reasons for developing an App rather than just a browser-based service will, I imagine, be a topic of debate for some time to come.
The choices about what devices consumers choose seem to be increasingly ones dominated by what the devices may enable the end user to do, rather than any particular list of features and functions – and that enablement is driven by the Apps: let’s be honest, even the whizzyist of modern “smart” device is pretty much an expensive mirror without Apps. (And as an aside… Shhhh! I still keep an Android phone for my personal phone because I use it to listen to music via Spotify… something for the time being I can’t do on my work Windows Phone).
Whilst some people undoubtedly choose devices based on the device (ones designed in Cupertino, perhaps), even there, I would argue that most are choosing the enablement of some sort of status symbol rather than some sort of fetishism about processor power or memory.
What does any of this tell us? Well, maybe it helps to explain the technological opportunism that I witnessed at the Seedhack event a month ago. Choices of platforms being made by startups seem to (at least in that environment) be based on what will “enable me to the thing I need to do now most quickly and easily”. If your primary motive is delivering a product or service to a consumer, you become far less wedded to the platforms that any of it sits on, I guess. This should be a big concern for my organisation and for many of the “traditional” technology providers. Likewise, people are developing in droves for iOS and Android today, because it’s an easy route to a big group of consumers.
It also, though, maybe starts to explain why there has been such a rapid pace of adoption of technologies in the past three or four years by the general (non-geeky) population – whether it’s Facebook or smart devices or whatever else. At last, possibly, people are being put front and centre of the focus of the development of software and this further adds to my views that traditional business systems are the next big battleline in the world of consumerisation.