To the App Store and Beyond

“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your
methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.”

Sun Tzu, Chinese military strategist

“You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad – that’s one app. During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times – three more apps. On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your smartphone. Another app. At work, you scroll through RSS feeds in a reader and have Skype and IM conversations. More apps. At the end of the day, you come home, make dinner while listening to Pandora, play some games on Xbox Live, and watch a movie on Netflix’s streaming service.

“You’ve spent the day on the Internet – but not on the Web. And you are not alone.”

Chris Anderson, Wired magazine, August 2010

You did it, so what now?

If it’s your first app, congratulations, hopefully you’re pleased with it and it’s everything you were expecting it to be first time around. You might be wondering though (apart from marketing it very hard) what’s next for you or your company in the app world.

  • Updating your app forever more?
  • Making an iPad version too?
  • Exploring other platforms (Android, Blackberry and the rest)?

Wherever you decide to take it, the most important thing is to ignore the hype and make sure your app is a success in its own right and achieves what you want it to. If you’re looking to the future though, and where apps are going, what then? Have you just made a cool but ultimate pointless toy that will pass like any other fad or will you look back on your first app as a pioneering step that left your competition in the dust?

No-one can say exactly how things will develop but a change is definitely happening in the digital world and, make no mistake, it’s all about one thing: apps. The funny thing is though, with most people spending the last 10-15 years focusing almost exclusively on the Web, apps crept up almost without anyone realising.

At first they were iPhone Apps. Then we called them mobile apps. Whatever they were called though, everyone understood that they were principally a way to do things on your mobile phone. After all, your PC or Mac already had the Web (through Internet Explorer, Safari etc) and ‘apps’ in the form of programs. Apps then were just a way to make your phone do cool stuff in an easy way. Like a cut-down version of programs you already had on your home or work computer.

Apps haven’t stopped at mobile phones though. Both Google and Apple showed their commitment to apps by announcing they would launch App Stores for their Chrome web browser and Mac operating system respectively. Somewhere along the line then it is clear.

Apps stopped being just iPhone Apps or mobile apps and they started to become simply: apps.

Not quite websites and, although ‘programs’ in the strict definition of the word, not ‘programs’ as most people usually think of them.

Take a look at the timeline:

  • July 2008: Apple launches the iPhone App Store;
  • October 2008: Android follows, launching its own app store called Android Marketplace;
  • April 2010: iPad launch, not exactly a phone but still using apps;
  • May 2010: Google reveals it will do web apps for it’s Chrome web browser1;
  • October 2010: Steve Jobs announces that within 90 days Apple will launch a Mac App Store for it’s Snow Leopard operating system2, allowing apps to run on a desktop/laptop environment.

Apps may at one time have been definitively ‘mobile’ but that’s certainly not the case now. Where does that leave you and your company’s digital strategy though? Should you start trying to create one universal app for everything to cut costs or will you ‘miss out’ if you don’t try to stay on top of every new trend?

The truth is no-one knows for sure yet but some things are certain. The iPad is changing everything. Apps are changing everything. With your first app you have at least taken one giant step forward in reaching out to your audience and gaining experience of this trend. A trend that is surely here to stay for some considerable time.
For some further thoughts on the subject take a look at Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff’s thought-provoking lead for Wired magazine in August 2010 and then decide:
The Web is Dead: Long Live The Internet

No-one should suddenly write-off or ignore websites (as we’ve seen with TV news and newspapers, one new medium doesn’t instantly kill off another) but apps are way out in front of other mediums right now in at least a couple of big ways: the number of opportunities they are generating and the excitement and interest they are causing.

In this changing landscape that means opportunities for you or your company too. Most of all though it’s about having the chance to be bold and not being afraid to go in your own direction, because even the so-called ‘experts’ are still figuring out exactly how apps will develop in the coming years (and a lot of what they predict will be wrong).

Right now you have some fantastic opportunities so don’t wait. If you see an opportunity that no-one else has taken yet, grab it. Don’t wait for others to figure it out. Be bold, take a deep breath.

Go with your instinct and let the others play catch-up and maybe the next edition of the App Outsourcing Guide will be talking about your success too.