Is your company still developing business applications primarily for the big screen? If you’re doing it for more than just a few people in specific roles, you’re probably missing the bigger picture of where the world is going. Facebook’s Zuckerberg said they paid $16B for the WhatsApp mobile messaging platform for more than its 450 million monthly users (who mostly access the app daily) because they see the value of a mobile growth platform that can be expected to have 1 billion users soon. But it’s more than that — they plan to operate WhatsApp as a standalone app, a decision driven by the knowledge that the mobile world is not a monolithic one.
The mobile world is a sliced-up, purpose-built collection of as many apps as the user wants to use to do their business or have their fun.
A purpose-built world
Think about the maturity of the Internet for a moment. When we first computerized commercially in the 70′s and 80′s, we did moved whole departments online all at one time. Accounting went first, and then we brought in HR and the rest. We didn’t know any other way. Then we went online in the mid-90′s, but our heads could only understand and the technology could only support one-way web pages. Even as we developed two-way applications for the web, we were only pushing those 70′s and 80′s systems online, still as monolithic applications with all of their functionality intact.
Then the 2000′s came and we’ve been smashing through technology and mindset barriers, led by the concept of small, purpose-built applications that run extremely well on bandwidth and storage-limited mobile devices. WhatApp was brilliant because it took expensive, carrier-owned functionality — texting — and turned it into another small, purpose-built way to communicate. This is the market Skype could have owned if they had moved their model to mobile much faster.
Apps matter more than applications
We’re in a world where the app has more value than the application for the end user. Think about what that means for development — rather than spending a fortune and months or years developing user screens and workflows, the value today is in getting the data figured out and then slicing it as many ways as necessary to give value to the users through apps. Remember that users don’t care about HTML5 or any technology that sits in the back end…they want something easy to view, press and swipe. They want their functionality served up in a way that’s very easy to consume.
Apps are about attributes, not about a powerful, all-knowing application (which can only scare us when it comes to privacy or complexity).