The Evolution of Phone-based Applications

Can smart phones be a viable platform for business computing? You bet. Here's one vision of how that might look.

By Daniel Burrus | Posted Jul 28, 2010
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No one can deny that the original telephone Alexander Graham Bell invented in 1876 has changed significantly. From a luxury item proudly displayed as the centerpiece of the home to something small, portable, and powerful that people keep within arm’s reach 24/7, the humble telephone has evolved into a mini personal computer capable of much more than traditional voice phone calls.

Today, with the advent of various Smart Phones, such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Droid, phones have gotten…well…smarter. People can now download apps (short for applications) directly to their phone to help them with a number of everyday tasks. Whether you want to check flight schedules, create a to-do list, convert currency, track your daily caloric intake, relax to soothing sounds, or do any number of business or personal things, chances are there’s an app for it.

As a result, businesses in every sector have been creating apps directly related to their core offerings. Some would even say that companies are “scrambling” to enter the apps market, believing that attracting additional customers and revenues is directly related to their app offerings.

Is creating apps a smart thing for businesses to do? Of course. Just as the phone has evolved, so has business. Having the ability to “touch” your customers when they’re not in your store or on your website is vital to stay competitive. However, as technology and Smart Phones continue to evolve (which we know without a doubt that they will), it only makes sense that the apps companies create would have to change too.

And that’s exactly where many companies are missing the mark.

Where We Go From Here
While creating apps with a mass-market appeal is good (such as apps for finding a good restaurant or creating action lists), few companies are thinking about the evolution of apps and what the next generation of apps will be.

So what exactly will tomorrow’s apps look like? The natural progression will be for apps to be enterprise level. In other words, there will need to be apps for purchasing, for logistics, for supply chain management, for lead generation, for patient care, etc. Tomorrow’s apps will be like having a virtual assistant by your side. These apps won’t just make you more productive with your work; they’ll actually do some of the work for you. For example, in the medical field, we’ll see apps for disease management, for patient records, and for remote diagnostics. The app will be more like an essential tool to perform a specific function rather than an ancillary item.

Aside from the app itself, the future of apps is also about where that app will be used. With Apple’s launch of the iPad and soon competing smart pads by other manufacturers, apps are already finding new homes outside of the phone.

Some Smart Phone apps are compatible with Smart Pads. But even those companies aren’t thinking big enough…both literally and figuratively. Since the Smart Pads have bigger screens and more processing power, why should they do the same thing as the phone app? Why not take advantage of that extra space and power and come up with a new class of apps that can do things the phone apps can’t? These are key questions companies must think about and address if they want to be serious players in the future app market.

But that’s just the beginning.

The next evolution is apps for the television. Today’s newer televisions are Internet enabled. (And, by the way, all our devices will be Internet enabled one day.) That means the processor and the television browser are built into the TV set so you don’t have to plug a computer into your television; the TV is the computer.

Stake Your Claim in Tomorrow’s Apps
If you look at the types of apps currently available in the app stores, you can see that most of the companies developing apps don’t see the future of apps. They’re doing simplistic and basic apps that don’t take into account future needs and they certainly aren’t enterprise level apps. In fact, if you look for business apps in iTunes, the largest app store, you’ll find numerous apps on such things as document scanning, creating to-do lists, and document sharing. Such apps are so common that some could argue they’re commodities. Standing out in the business world requires you to be more than a commodity – you need to be a unique solutions provider. Tomorrow’s apps will do precisely that.

Realize that apps are a major tectonic revolution in computing. We went from servers, mainframes, and terminals to having our own desktops and PCs to having our own laptops. Our main computing device is now becoming our Smart Phones and Smart Pads that enable us to connect to the world from anywhere.

By making the Smart Phone and Smart Pad a multimedia PC powered by dozens if not hundreds of apps, people can now have a powerful computer with them at all times. As result, people from all walks of life and every industry have the ability to do some amazing things they couldn’t do before. That’s a giant shift in thinking about phones and apps…and one your company needs to be a part of.


ABOUT DANIEL BURRUS:
Daniel Burrus is one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the author of six books, including the highly acclaimed Technotrends, which has been translated into over a dozen languages. He is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social, and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.

Burrus also founded of Visionary Apps, which seeks to utilize the constantly evolving Smart Phone, Smart Pad and Smart TV to bring never before seen opportunities designed to engage and empower the user in new and exciting ways in the fields of real estate, healthcare, purchasing, logistics, supply chain, sales, marketing, energy, security and many more.

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