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Thursday Signal – Repeat After Me: Apps Are (Currently) Myopic (Or…We've Seen This Movie Before…)

By - March 10, 2010

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I’m not claiming to be deeply informed about the app marketplace, which Google stirred up today (and, to my mind, the market could use a few more spoons). But I do use apps. At least, I use enough of them to feel like a nearly typical member of the species (as compared to a few of my peers, who are so deeply involved in AppWorld that they have – just maybe – lost a bit of perspective.)  

So, here’s my beef with AppWorld. In short, it reminds me of computing back in about 1987. Yeah, 24 years ago, back when I was a cub reporter for MacWeek, I covered the burgeoning world of Apple and Apple developers. And trust me, I’m getting a pretty strong sense of deja vu. I guess being old counts for something.

Back in the late 1980s, folks who developed applications for the new Macintosh OS had two very strong sentiments about Apple. One, they LOVED the company and its Macintosh development environment. They loved it for what it was, for what it could be, and for the opportunity it presented to them – a newly fallen bowl of virgin powder, into which clever and entrepreneurial programmers could strap it on and push off to lay fresh tracks. Imagine the possibilities! A program that let you paint with your mouse! A program that let you visualize otherwise mute spreadsheets! A program that taught you how to type by watching actual fingers move on a keyboard on the screen! Holy cow, the possibilities were limitless!

But then there was the second strong sentiment. I’ll sum it up in a phrase: F*cking G@#$%damn Apple! The company was impossible to work with, utterly controlling, miserly with its developer tools, overbearing in its demands, myopic in its decision making. In fact, an entire organization sprung up, the Macintosh Developers Network (I think, not the current MDN, which is a UK org), seemingly driven by its members need to console each other in the face of the inscrutable Cupertino. (Apple never did really embrace the MDN, though I found in its members some very good sources…).

So let’s fast forward to today. Once again, Apple has created an extraordinary new environment for developers and entrepreneurs, and once again, it has fostered pretty much the same two sentiments.

But unlike the late 1980s, this time the world is different. It’s connected. It’s web-driven. The Web is the World, and the world demands connections.

But so far, what I’ve noticed most about apps in AppWorld is that they are, for the most part, all about themselves. They’re not connected to the greater web, and they don’t encourage you to move seamlessly from one app to another, depending on your intent.

And that, to my mind, can’t stand.

Just a thought. Now, onto some good linkage:

Google Launches the Google Apps Marketplace (Mashable) As I said….

comScore Reports January 2010 U.S. Mobile Subscriber Market Share (Comscore) Because you can’t get enough datapoints about something that confuses us all.

Engage your users to survive, Google tells newspapers (Guardian) Google, lecturing publishers on engagement. The world is truly upside down.

Gen Y Goes for Online Banking (eMarketer) Take heed. Are you offering your services online? Why not?

ARM sees over 50 new iPad-like devices out this year (Computerworld) Thank God.

Why MySpace Co-Presidents Aren’t Worried About Growth (PaidContent) Well, I doubt that will last.

FTC Said to Ask Google Rivals for Statement on AdMob, May Signal Challenge (Bloomberg) My my. Hmm. My.

Corporate Branding Goes Rogue (AdAge) “Social media is not just another tactic to be tacked onto the proverbial backside of a corporate identity system. It needs to be recognized for what it is — the disruptive technology that radically changes the game. So much of what operated in the old corporate branding model simply does not apply anymore.”

RealNetworks’ Rob Glaser on why Apple’s model must be stopped (TechFlash) ….and as long as I’m on the hobbyhorse…comScore: Android Shows Strength As Mobile Web Usage Grows (SEL)

Announcing The Fifth Annual CM Summit: Theme and Initial Lineup (FM blog) I had to remind you of this, didn’t I? Great lineup….

Ad Publishing Tool Bridges Traditional And Online Media (MediaPost)

Google Gains Traction In Display-Ad Push (WSJ via ATD)

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  • http://www.jonathanpalley.com JP

    Or, rather like the Shareware “goldrush” of the ’90s…http://blog.jonathanpalley.com/2010/03/11/the-app-fad/

  • http://www.FrustrationFreeHomeschool.com How to Homeschool

    There will be apps to manage your apps and link your apps, etc. It is moving so fast anymore. Grab a handle and hang on!

  • http://uxhero.com Nathan Bowers

    Many of the best apps in the App Store serve as rich clients to web apps. It’s not an either/or proposition.

    Many of the other apps are games (which have a rich history of being released on closed platforms) or little utilities that work better as widgets than websites.

    And don’t forget that the iPhone was the first phone to have a non-godawful mobile browser.

    While it can be frustrating for developers, the iPhone has been a huge source of productivity and joy for users.