What started this post off was the news that Apple App Store had, in less than one year, reached its one billionth downloaded sale. Here is the story, plus with some other interesting statistics on use. That’s a huge number of downloads for what is still a relatively new concept and market. In comparison, it took nearly three years for Apple iTunes to reach the same billionth download level. Stand back and make a further comparison, iTunes was about the consumption of something well understood for which there was an existing market and just changed the delivery mechanism; i.e. music. The App Store has just produced a thriving market that didn’t exist before, except maybe in gaming, the mass consumption of software for personal use. People, colleagues, friends, choosing and downloading software because they want it for a variety of reasons, including serious stuff for work, helpful stuff for home, or just plain fun.
It’s not just the consumption side either, it has changed the software development side too, by introducing a ready market place for anyone who has a bright idea and given them a route to market complete with revenues. With more than 35,000 apps on the site already, it seems that this message has sunk in, and therefore real innovation is being unleashed too. Sometimes it’s frivolous at one level, but shows something pretty important at another such as ‘bumping’, which was the one millionth downloaded app, www.bumptechnologies.com being the ability to bump two iPhones together to initiate an exchange of information.

Put this together and you see a changing behaviour in people, reflecting itself in their interest in selecting and consuming software that interests them, which in itself leads to the emergence of the ‘services’ market. Not necessarily ‘X as a Service’, but certainly in taking small pieces of software and using it as they personally chose in a ‘pull’ manner and certainly not the enterprise user manner of being ‘pushed’ the software that they must use. This takes us in two directions, that of the software itself, and more on that later, and to devices.
Perhaps the real innovation is in the iPhone itself as, in a typical Apple, manner it redesigned the feature/functionality mix, including adding sensors for motion, etc. that have driven some of the really ‘off the wall’ downloadable apps. All in a form factor to fit in a male shirt pocket which according to one colleague is the real test for a modern device. Unless shirt pockets are getting bigger i don’t think that quite explains the other statistics around devices, starting with the relentless fall in PC sales and the equally relentless rise in Smart Phone sales. If I remember this correctly then the curves say that there will be more smart phones in the world than PCs in a couple of years. However, I reckon by then this will be a meaningless comparison, hidden away in the current statistics for PC shipments is – and I quote – the sweet spot of small form notebooks already propping up the figures for PC sales.
The market is shifting towards personal devices that are small and mobile, and yes that means lighter note books for those who need more capabilities, or smaller and lighter sub notebooks, web books, or whatever else you like to call them for everyone else. All of these are fundamentally built around mobility, wireless access, and the web as a ubiquitous support environment, so it’s not too surprising to see that a number of manufacturers are making noises about adopting Google Android as the operating system for these devices. What this might mean is speculated upon in some detail at Venture Beat but what all of this really adds up to is that the definition of the PC over the last twenty years is not going to be sustainable as the number one device in use by people.
Does that translate into the death of the PC? Most certainly not as there will continue to be a large number of desktops which for good reason are fixed and wired in, and may be have to run a full specification standalone OS for personal working, but the growth is not likely to be here. The challenge at the enterprise level is firstly the provision of thin clients in a way that permits governance and secondly to understand how these devices will get used from a personal software consumption point of view. (As I said earlier I will pick up on the software side in my next post which will feature the growing interest in ‘situational apps’, which you might think of as the new spreadsheets in terms of how they are used).
You can start to get to grips with the whole technology of thin clients at http://quocirca.computing.co.uk/2009/03/size-zero-computing-when-thin-can-be-good.html and how it has changed in various areas over the last couple of years to allow the spread of work between client and server to be better balanced, the ability to shift from each client needing a unique virtual machine to a handful of VMs serving a large number of clients, etc, etc. My closing point is that the people are choosing how to personalise their ‘experience’ in the use of software and devices, and all the signs indicate this will accelerate, so the only rational move for the enterprise MIS department is to figure out how to deal with this by updating themselves on the new forms of thin clients for the enterprise side of the equation. Reading the post I have listed may surprise you to see how it’s changed!