Requiem For The App Revolution

The app revolution is dead. In fact, it died years ago.

It had been a good run, but a revolution is no longer a revolution when the model is the status quo. With new apps created every day, the revolution has definitely been televised, commoditized and capitalized.

But while the app revolution is dead, a new movement is rising to take its place — the experience evolution.

With so many apps available, the ones that truly change the game extend beyond the device and change how you experience everyday tasks and activities. Take Uber for example, their app isn’t game-changing, but evolving the experience of taking a cab is powerful enough to disrupt an entire industry. And now wearables are doing the same thing.

Wearables are where the experience evolution kicks into high gear, but there’s one more piece to the experience evolution that is perhaps even more important for developers and organizations to keep in mind: How you experience something depends on where you experience it. Have you ever tried to read an e-book on an iPad in the bright sun? If so, you know what I mean.

This notion of where you experience an app as a fundamental principle came crashing home for me a few years ago when I spent some time in Kenya working with a number of Salesforce Foundation customers who were looking to build mobile applications on the Salesforce1 Platform.

My colleagues and I toured the Kibera slums where a customer was bringing clean toilets to the millions of inhabitants. Each toilet was managed by a franchise and run as a business. Part of that business was tracking usage to ensure adequate toilet distribution and waste removal schedules. The franchise tracked all of this using paper and pen.

I suggested it would be more efficient with a mobile app. The implementation partner quickly reminded me that we were in the middle of a slum in Kenya ­and you would get mugged for a mobile device faster than you could say “iPhone.”

I remember nodding my head. I could write the best app in the world; it would have amazing user experience and save people countless hours shuffling paper around. But I forget where the user would experience the app. Failing to do so will doom any app to the digital wasteland.

Where you experience something is critical. It’s a lesson I learned the hard way. But it is also the huge wearable opportunity: delivering new experiences at the right time.

This notion is what keeps location-based apps around. It changes how we experience everyday activities. We no longer have to search for a restaurant on Yelp on our computer, we can find a recommendation for a good restaurant near our current location.

Remember when we used to have to print directions before leaving the house? Now we easily find our way around without planning ahead, or go out for a run and have our distance automatically tracked.

Even location-based dating apps have been able to keep up in the crowded market; for example, Happen let’s us get a second chance with someone we pass on the street and otherwise might not have met. It all goes back to the right experience at the right time and place.

But it’s not all fun and games. Take for example, the manufacturing, construction, medical and field services industries. They are all prime for the experience evolution. Being able to work hands-free in hazardous or sensitive areas with the ability to access information where and when it’s needed will massively change how these industries operate.

For example, cloud ERP company, Plex, is using wearable technology such as Google Glass to connect everything from machines and sensors to PCs and mobile devices to employees on the manufacturing shop floor. In the construction industry, XoEye Technologies is using wearable technology to connect workers’ glasses to their manager so they are able to see exactly what workers on site are seeing and help out remotely.

Medical students will no longer be required to lean forward to peer down on surgeons to learn their craft; they will have the ability to learn from more accessible locations.

The opportunities for wearables are endless. Apps are now the status quo. The true opportunity is in the experience evolution: how these apps unlock entirely new ways of interacting with ­an augmented ­world around us. “Where” is the new killer feature.

RIP, App Revolution. Long live the Experience Evolution.