World going app again


Those who know how world has been prior to web era, knows what we call applications and software or programs used to be desktop based or native applications. Count in all multimedia, productivity etc type of program/software for consumers and business applications in Windows, Mac or Linux machines.

Then came web revolution as we advanced to web 2.0 standard. Everyone were talking about web and building stuffs on web. Internet connectivity and bandwidth kept increasing and online HD video as well online gaming began to be common. Companies started writing online software and SAAS.  Even for consumer, more and more web apps kept coming.  It was generally believed that web is everything. People even used personal task management tool or personal finance tool that was on web. People were reading news online, watching videos, movies and TV online.

But But But.. Mobile is the new thing right ?

With iPhone boom post 2007, mobile apps became new phenomenon in computing world. Millions of mobile devices started being sold. Android made smartphones a reality for even common people in developing economies. Usage of mobile devices  suddenly rose to be significant to be compared to web usage which can be seen here and here. Mobile apps were becoming rage. Many individual mobile apps producing companies and startups  stood as tall as multi million dollar software enterprise.

Same people who were using web based tool for personal task and information management now started using some mobile app on their smartphone or tablet for those purposes. Same with watching videos or movies or reading news. People who were doing social networking online, now uses twitter and facebook mobile apps more than online version. Ask why ? the answer is “Experience”. The experience associated with mobile devices app is far better than even a web app cleverly built using  HTML 5 and fancy JS. Most web apps and SAAS now has their own or are thinking to building one.  “Experience” is one compelling reason.

Following are some advantages of mobile apps (May be more, but I am caring to mention these only):

  • UX is better on mobile devices. Count in touch experience and transition fx etc.
  • Data is persistent as its native app.  Interaction session is handled better.
  • Mobile apps are more snappier even if it has to connect to some web endpoint for data , as it need not to  load all UI part and HTML/css/js needed to render a web page.
  • Graphic has no limitation. You can leverage native OS capabilities rather than being limited HTML 5 (Yes HTML 5 can do lot but still limited compared to what native SDK can allow)

Billions of mobile devices will still be sold and as platform like Windows 8 taking mobile devices to next level of productivity and performance, more and more web app will be converted in mobile app and new apps will be introduced. And after all advancement in technology like cloud is as much relevant to mobile apps as it is to web apps.  So mobile apps are going to be what people use more than web apps.

The same world which went  web couple of year ago, is now going app. Although it would too early to say, after 2x or 10x advancement in web standards,   kinds of web apps could become possible that can give same level of experience as mobile app is giving right now and world  will start going web once again. ( are we talking Chrome OS ?)

Microsoft and possible technology maturity advantage

First of all let’s define technology maturity. Let’s take example of robots. They design humanoid robots in labs. They can do that now. But there couldn’t be mass production for consumer for that. Because robot design technology is still at immature stage. That’s how maturity of technology plays big role in product success. Everyone knows. Same can also be applied to software technology domain and software innovation in post-pc era. 

There’s been general belief that Microsoft had been way behind likes of google, apple when it comes to product like online productivity tools (Goog app vs Microsoft office 365) or Mobile OS platform (iOS vs Windows phone) or Search engine (Google vs Bing). At the time of writing this iOS (and Android) is far far ahead of Windows Phones in terms of sales and revenues. But top analyst like Gartner, IDC and iSuppli  predicts that Windows phone platform will surprass iOS by 2015. These all (predication and MS prospect) looks lame and uninteresting to those who see Microsoft as traditional and outdated company which has lost its touch and which is no longer in position to compete with other tech leaders in terms of innovation.I don’t want to argue or debate about originality and innovation capability of Microsoft vs other major tech companies here but I am writing to point out how maturity of technology might play big role in changing the game and how Microsoft could be winner all the way.Apple came in first with consumer PCs in early 1980s. It was first mover. But Microsoft won that game somewhere in early nineties in terms of software as well as in terms of hardware as the technology became mature. In another example, Google introduced productivity and collaboration  tool Google Docs in 2006 where there was no HTML5 and web didn’t made the advance that we are seeing today. Microsoft did it lot late when Office 365 was launched in 2011.  But if you compare Google Apps with Microsoft Office 365 , Google apps clearly is way behind what MS Office 365 offers. This is the advantage when you wait until the technology becomes mature. Product head of Office 365 was quoted saying “MS could have done this in 2006 but we would see it as compromise. Virtually everyone on planet uses and has formidable trust in Office suite and they can’t loose their customer’s faith by providing half backed product.” And they chose to wait until they could built that level of rich experience on web.
Microsoft and technology maturity advantage by Prayaag KasundraThe same might not be true for mobile platform space. I won’t say MS intentionally didn’t innovate in mobile space. I wouldn’t argue that MS had been waiting for technology to be mature to build something like what Apple did with iOS in 2007. They missed the shot with that may be. But now that we are in 2012 and MS has announced Windows 8, we should see how maturity of technology will impact in determining the winner. The mobile space has been booming. Apple saw this very early and so does the Google. They saw tablets is the real thing and desktop PCs are thing of bygone era. They built mobile platform around that. Microsoft came with mobile platform very late. But still they didn’t have platform for tablets.

The OS platform for tablets are still immature. They are mobile OS , and there are large no. of apps for those platforms but still there’s still large no of people who want to do things on tablets which current age tablets can’t do for them. Common argument from apple and google would be that most people want content consumption , games , multimedia etc. That could be true to start tablet revolution when people haven’t seen those half inch thin device doing crazy stuff. But it doesn’t mean they don’t need anything more than that forever.

Microsoft’s promise for One Ecosystem and unified experience really holds value. They demoed
on keynote of build 2011 (check video here. fastforward to 1:03 min.) how devices of different capability will carry single Microsoft windows 8 and how win8 has what it takes to become The One Platform  and how its gonna match the hardware advancement (low power, ARM etc.) to allow development of wider range of devices. The development tool for win8 will enable developer to target different set of devices without writing completely differet code for multiple OS. It will allow customer to get same experience out of all their devices. Get everything sync well. Get everything at one place. Experience of being in single ecosystem. This all will be possible with windows 8. Windows8 is possible due to technology maturity. portable hardware of tablet device will be reality after 1-2 years. earlier (when ipad or other tablet were launched) there was compromise with platform in terms of computing capability and so Apple and Google have to stay limited to a “Mobile OS” for tablet.  Now Windows8 will come at right time and will provide full desktop capabilities on tablet. If anyone still doubts why would one want tablet to do desktop stuff and wonder how it would even do , please check this video of samsung windows 8 developer preview edition tablet.

Its always difficult to predict technology adoption and technology product success. But this is how I see the happening in post-PC era and fate of Microsoft.

PS: You can check posts about windows 8 on tech crunch