The Coming App Ecosystem
Steve Jobs once described Dropbox as a feature, not a product. He was more prescient than most realized at the time. We are moving into a world where more and more of our app usage is becoming mediated by other apps, Virtual Assistants and the operating systems themselves.
To take a simple example, when Google Now tells me what the weather will be like in Seattle today, it's drawing on the http://weather.com
service. Lots of other developers are integrating with Google Now as well; you can see a list of over a hundred of them here:https://www.google.com/landing/now/integrations.html
It's not just about Google Now integrating third party apps into its user experience either. "Google Now on Tap" brings the power of Google Now to other apps. I'm already using (something like) it in mobile Chrome to click on a word and easily pull up definitions, Wikipedia entries and other related information.* Imagine being able to easily do the same with just a tap and a swipe in your EverNote, Twitter, feedly, Google+ and Facebook apps.
That's just the beginning too. Soon, we'll be seeing many more types of interesting integrations. Maps, cameras, messaging and many other features will increasingly be accessible from within apps that currently don't have that functionality. These app developers will find it increasingly easy to strengthen user experience by adding functionality that they don't have to build themselves. Also, by allowing their apps to be indexed by Google, the apps themselves become much more discoverable to users - not just in Google Play Store (or Apple Store), but also via different user contexts (see below). This is strategically quite important to Google, by the way, as it should help to stem some of Facebook's success in mobile app advertising.
None of this is new, mind you. It's just accelerating. Today, we launch individual apps to extract their specific functionality. Tomorrow the functionality of various apps will be increasingly orchestrated for us, and I see two primary drivers accelerating this shift.
The first is the rise of Virtual Assistants like Google Now, Siri and Cortana and the growing capabilities of voice recognition. Being able to have a spoken conversation with your phone is pretty natural and very flexible. I now frequently use "OK Google, open X"
to open apps that are buried in my apps folder - it's just faster. I'm also getting used to saying things like "OK Google, email CJ"
and it launches Gmail with a email ready to go to my wife. These are baby steps but you can see where they will go and why the Virtual Assistant is likely to be a big driver of the app ecosystem.
The second driver is contextual computing. I see a huge opportunity for "context integrators" who build "context apps" designed specifically for helping us navigate through particular situations. A 'travel context app' might get triggered by Google Now when I wake up on the morning of a big trip. The app knows my routine, and walks me through early online check in at the airport (regardless of what airline I'm on), calling a cab, shutting off my paper while I'm away, turning my Out of Office message on in Gmail, launching a map of the Oakland airport to get me to the rental pick up, and so on. You could imagine many other context-specific symphonies of apps, integrated together by people who've really taken the time to understand what people need around various contexts in their lives. There's a huge opportunity here, I think. Although you can bet that Siri, Google Now and Cortana will be eyeing it too.
A few years ago, I came up with an interesting mockup for something like this, with context being set by a combination of four variables: place, time, semantics, and relationships. Take a look at the part about the "app canvas" because it hints at what I'm talking about with the app ecosystem: "App Canvas is a completely different way of thinking about finding and interacting with apps than what we have today. When the app canvas is opened, we see just those apps that make the most sense of our particular context. Shopping in a grocery store, riding in a car, eating in a restaurant - each of these contexts will load different apps by default."https://plus.google.com/u/0/+GideonRosenblatt/posts/Z7vqRmcj91r
Technology marches on. These changes are going to result in some truly useful functionality. They also raise real questions. For example, today, each of us chooses which app we use for weather. But in a world where we just ask Google Now, does Google just make that choice of app provider for us, or will we have a choice?
HT +Matthew J Price
#apps #virtualassistant #googlenow
* Across a range of search-related fronts Google is adding convenience, utility and some gee-whiz features to make search more useful and engaging to smartphone owners. Now on Tap, in-app deep-linking and touch-to-search are all part of this multi-pronged initiative.http://searchengineland.com/google-now-on-tap-finds-answers-navigates-between-apps-without-search-222780