At IWNY HQ Ford hosted a panel discussion called “The Appification of Your Life”. Topics ranged from mobile targeting and privacy to platform development and the overall future of apps and mobile. It was the looking ahead that interested me most.
Panelist Seth Sternberg, CEO of Meebo, was brazen enough to proclaim that apps would be gone in 3-5 years. We heard similar hints of this from a Google presenter at the UnConference back in May. Another panelist, Jared Hecht, who is a co-founder of the app GroupMe also agreed by comparing apps to software CD-roms in the early computer years. The feeling was that apps are just the first step until everything goes completely to the cloud.
This is a very interesting hypothesis that could have lots of implications on the mobile space and the way we think about ideas for clients. One of the biggest wins is for developers being able to work off one platform. Right now app makers have to make versions for iPhones, Android devices, Blackberries, and some even on simpler feature phones. I could hear the hopeful sighs of reliefs from the panelist imagining one universal platform to develop for.
The hold up really is mobile connection speeds. They can be slow which make mobile web based experience frustrating to users. Seth said increased connection speeds will get rid of much of the need for apps.
Additionally, Shawn Gunn of NAVTEQ, which specialized in location based products (like GPS) said that once things move off local phone storage to the more open environment in the mobile web we will be able to better target, track, and analyze.
Thinking about how this affects the way we think for our clients, it made me wonder if we should start steering our “app” ideas to more mobile web based platforms. My gut says in the short term we shouldn’t as the bandwidth isn’t there yet. But we could start by thinking about how to optimize our clients’ websites for mobile – what kinds of information would someone want from our brand when they have to access us on their phone, it’s probably quick product information, store locators, or coupons they can grab while they are in-store vs robust experiences they can hang out in.
I am excited to see how the digital landscape shifts more and more to this smaller more nimble space. When I got my iPhone 4 I had a grandfathered unlimited data plan that AT&T no longer offers to new customers. They were trying to get me give it up as most people don’t currently have such heavy mobile data needs (a brand trying to get me to down grade, hmmm). On a hunch I told myself to hold onto it – looks like I made a good decision.