February 19, 2013

Predicting the future: Will apps still be a “big deal” in 2 years?

With the prevalence of smart phones, apps are everywhere.  Need a suggestion on your next tattoo?  “There’s an app for that.”  Need to see if your kids made it home from school?  “There’s an app for that.”   Need to predict if you will have a good hair day…no kidding…there’s even an app for that too.  There are apps for nearly everything you can imagine.

The big question on the minds of business owners is “How can I use an app to my advantage?”  I’m often approached about apps and this is usually how the conversation goes:

Business Owner:   “Steve, can you guys build an app for my company?”

Steve:   “Absolutely we can (my answer is always ‘absolutely we can’). What do you want it to do?”

Business Owner:  “Um….I don’t know.”

Steve:  “OK, what are the goals you’re trying to accomplish with an app?”

Business Owner:  “I don’t know.”

Steve: “What are the business challenges you’re trying to solve with an app.”

Business Owner:  “I haven’t thought of any.”

Steve: “Why do you think you need or want an app?”

Business Owner:  “Because everyone else has one.”

Steve: “Sigh….”

While it would be easy to just build useless apps for everyone who asks for one (and there are a lot of local companies that will do this), we don’t believe in doing anything that won’t add value for our clients.  So, I often talk more clients out of apps than the other way around.  Even more importantly, I don’t believe apps will be as “big a deal” in 2 years.  Here is why:

Problem Number 1 - Apps can be expensive to build – There are 2 major flavors of apps today: Apple and Android.  Each has its own OS (Operating System) and thus apps need to be built for each platform. This means at least twice the development cost as building an app just once.

Problem Number 2 – Apple’s App Store is restrictive – As a developer, I have to admit that I’m frustrated with Apple and I’m glad to see them losing their iron-death-grip on the app development industry.  Currently, they control everything that goes into their app store and can deny an app for any reason they choose.    This does not sit well with developers and their clients who invest in an app, only to have it rejected by Apple.  (Note: the Android Play Store allows all apps). 

Solution - New Technology is (nearly) here- There’s a new “Sheriff in town” and his name is HTML5.  This is a new version of the web-page language which is designed to include all of the things that apps do well: animations, video, user interface enhancements, gaming, connectivity, 3d graphics etc.   HTML5 will allow developers to build an application once (solving problem number 1) and post it to the web (solving problem number 2).  This could cut development costs and circumvent the Apple dictatorship known as the ‘app store’.  HTML5 will simply run in a web browser on your phone rather than requiring you to launch a specific app.

In the end, as with all things in business, it will all come down to the “bottom line”.  The economic advantages of HTML5 will drive its usage as a development choice.

If you have questions or need some direction on apps, web development, search or social strategy, send an email to: steve@encorewebworks.com.