Why the App is Already Dead

appChristmas came to the Coxon home and with it came some new presents.  There were Razors and skateboards, dolls and horses, science kits and crafts.  Amidst all of the items there was also Disney Infinity 2.0 and a Lego Technic set, both of which came with some cards and bonus codes for their respective apps.

I located the iPad and started downloading the apps.  During this process, my five year old daughter’s curiosity got the better of her and she came and asked,

“What are you doing Daddy?”

“Downloading the apps for Lego and Infinity”, I said with a smile.

She paused for a moment and then asked,

“Why does everything have to have an app?”

And that was it.  The moment I knew the app as we know it had died.

Of course I am not saying that apps will disappear immediately or completely, that will inevitably take some time.  We will see the app go through it’s death throes for a few years, but the writing is on the wall.

The digital natives are already restless.  They are bored with “the app”.

If we are looking toward the future, we can’t ignore the fact that once everything has an app, the app is no longer a differentiator or innovative.  It is commonplace, and commonplace is boring.

The next generations of tech users will not be satisfied with having to switch between “applications” to accomplish tasks, control devices, or gather information.  The truth is apps are a nice stepping stone but not the end game.

They are not organic and they pull the user out of reality and into a digital experience.  Users have to continually switch modes between real life and digital life, between one application and the next.

Google Glass is an attempt to start to eliminate the hard stops and starts between using a phone and or tablet and interfacing with the real physical world around us.  However, whether it’s a watch or Glass, or some other wearable currently on the market, it still won’t really break the barrier between the analog and digital worlds until the experience transitions seamlessly without the discrete input or direction of the user.

So what does this mean?

It means that apps as iconic branded buttons will have to go away.  The next generation of “apps” will be software applications that run invisibly, start automatically, and augment reality without the direct input of the user.

This means that future applications will need to be 2 things.

1) Personal- The experience needs to be personalized to the user.  This means the user will have a profile stored somewhere that is communicated to whatever device/s they are needing to interact with.  This profile customizes the interaction of devices with the user and allows them to seamlessly interact with multiple devices without switching between separate applications.

2) Context-Aware- Devices will need to not only be able to interact on a personalized level, but also be able to sense the context of the situation as well.  We have seen some of this development in the medical space, as a surgeon does not want to launch an app when the patient’s heart rate suddenly spikes, she just wants the devices to start giving her relevant data based on that event, like blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, etc.

Context-Aware devices for the public at large may not prove to be as “life and death”, but in an equally relevant way, when in a store if the user looks at a price tag of an item, that item and its associated pricing and availability at other retailers would automatically be presented, without launching an app or scanning a QR code.

The point is that the barrier between launching and interacting with applications will be the death of apps and the birth of personal and context-aware software that runs seamlessly in the background, stitching together digital data and physical matter, allowing users to stay engaged in the physical world while taking full advantage of the digital library of complimentary data available to supplement it.

The company that creates an ecosystem where these types of software applications live symbiotically, and then empowers them to continually learn from and share knowledge with each other to create a completely unique experience for every user, will be poised to own the next wave of innovation and profits.

So if you’re a company developing “an app for that”…you’re already behind.