There used to be a thing called software. In fact we still buy software for Windows and Mac computers, but it also used to be purchased for Palm and Windows Mobile handhelds.
With software we spent a month or more making a purchasing decision. We downloaded a trial, installed it and played with it. We emailed or called support to see if it did this or did that or whether the bug that was found would be resolved soon. And then, if the stars aligned, we bought the software.
What Apple did was invent something new called apps. Apps are disposable, simple products that we buy and discard at will. Some apps we use for a long-time, like our calendar and instant messaging apps (and powerOne!), and some are temporarily retained until we move onto something else.
With apps we buy and then play. If there is a problem we just discard and move on. It is not unusual, with apps, to buy three or four products in a category, discarding the ones that didn’t serve the purpose.
Apps are descendent from software. To refer to it biologically, apps are to software what humans are to monkeys: we share similar DNA and are in the same family but they aren’t the same. And just like humans and monkeys we shouldn’t confuse the two.
As a developer, I still tend to think like software. We create extremely flexible products that run on smartphones and do any kind of calculation. Some people want that, these very powerful and flexible apps that are meant to solve a broad range of problems for a broad range of markets.
But most don’t care. They want an app they can use right away, use for their purpose and then throw away when they are done with it.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a negative post. I am not bemoaning this split between software and apps. Software is still thriving, especially on the web where we have apps to extend those web versions to local devices. All we need to do is look at the Evernotes, the Dropboxes, the 37Signals of the world.
My points is that there is a software descendent now called apps and, frankly, all of us developers need to consider that, especially in this brave new mobile world.