We (Almost) Live in an App World
I don’t believe we are quite yet living in “the golden age of the mobile app.” Not yet. I believe the “native desktop app” world will remain in place for quite some time. However, strategic use of cloud-based apps, in conjunction with on-premises solutions, are moving to the forefront of the information worker’s world, driven by two phrases we’re all sick of hearing about, but which are very much at play here: “bring your own device,” and “the consumerization of IT.” People want to flexibility and ease of use of an app that is accessed via their personal smartphone, which is changing the behavior of how we look at enterprise platforms within the corporate world, because we are beginning to understand the link between these apps with end user engagement.
But why will the transition to a pure-cloud future take longer than some anticipate?
For one, enterprises have far too much invested in on-premises and privately hosted solutions to move to the completely new paradigm of mobile. Second, while current cloud offerings may offer cost efficiencies in hardware, its happening at a time where on-prem costs are dropping anyway. With storage costs dropping through the floor, and the rise of virtualization, let’s face it – moving everything to the cloud is just not the same issue that it was 10 years ago. Couple that with (an assumed) lack of control of activities through mobile platforms, concerns over security, and – most importantly – the inability to accomplish through mobile apps what can only be accomplished through rich applications (and most of those on-premises), you can bet that enterprises will stick with what works for some time.
Just to be clear – don’t confuse “cloud” with “app.” Cloud-based solutions are here now, and are already enterprise-class. As an end user, I should be able to access the tools I need in a browser, regardless of the device. I don’t care if the site or tool (SharePoint, for example) is hosted in Redmond Washington, with SQL Server being hosted in Ireland data centers, blob storage at a location in Mountain View California, with data connections to a facility in Ahmedabad India. It doesn’t matter to me.
And just over the horizon is the true “dawn of the app” – focused, targeted tools for mobile and touch devices that allow users to do very powerful, specific activities without going through bloated applications, even those rich apps currently hanging around in the cloud today. The opportunity for apps is in their simplicity, solving targeted problems – versus rich apps that have a wide variety of features and solve for multiple business problems. Apps will become complex and componentized, working separately to complete certain workloads – or combined to cover more complex activities. My prediction is that apps will be linked together by relevance, and “findable” by other apps, making it easier for them to work together.
The limitations of current apps (think iPhone and Android-based) is that they are largely standalone, working independently of each other. Possibly through expansion of the cross-platform Mobile Application Markup Language (MAML), communication between these tools will be improved, allowing data and resource sharing, and unlocking the true potential of mobile. Once this begins to happen, and a string of these fast, lightweight applications can duplicate (or improve on) the enterprise application capability, we will experience the next phase of the app experience – and mobile will reign supreme.
That’s my two cents.