Disruptive technology takes time to sink into mainstream business activity, and tablet computing is no exception. In the first couple of years, app developers have been charging forward with a maelstrom of slick apps with narrow functional purpose but broad consumer appeal.
Since a satisfying user experience drives adoption, this has been highly effective in promoting sales of mobile devices in general, and tablets in particular.
However, as the industry matures, the appeal of mobile devices as serious business tools increases, requiring a shift in app development.
As smart devices mature from “the bedroom to the boardroom,” IT managers have been forced to debate BYOD vs. large scale deployment of company-owned devices. If they allow employees to use their own smartphones or tablets at work, they have to deal with a panoply of serious questions such as authentication, security, and most importantly, integration into their portfolio of business apps.
But if they choose a company-wide adoption strategy, they are forced to choose which platform to hang their hats on.
The behemoths on the block are bound to battle it out to lock in market share by forcing companies to choose: Apple, Google and Microsoft all are hawking their own platforms and devices. Developers are forced to divide up into various camps, or to bear the added expense of cross-platform development.
But no matter which platform emerges the victor, the industry needs to shift focus toward gleaning more productivity out of these tiny devices. What businesses care about will become the forcing function for better app development overall.
As desktop computing wanes in favor of a more fluid use experience on the go, consumer needs will also shift toward more integrated solutions. Heavy mobile users are often on multiple devices and their data needs to be accessible from, and compatible with, a chain of desktop and mobile apps.
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What we need are nimble productivity apps
The problem is that the field of cross-platform productivity apps is still quite narrow. The entire industry will need to devise productivity apps that are nimble, modular and platform agnostic.
Enterprise apps have traditionally been highly functional, but not at all slick and “sexy.”
Many of the large developers have been slow to adopt mobile in their offerings, much less in developing cross-platform rich apps. The key to successful app development during this industry transition will not be apps that do more, but rather apps that are more efficient at solving business problems in an engaging and usable way. Those that will rise to the top will be simple enough that anyone can use them, but elegant enough that they will appeal to a broad audience.
Developers who create rich apps uniquely designed for the mobile environment will have the most success in the new era of app development, or those who play well in the sandbox with other apps. The more modular and pluggable the solutions are, the more potential for success there will be as small businesses and IT managers solve the integration question.
We are starting to see a few standouts that have risen to the top in addressing cross-platform mobile productivity. Evernote and Dropbox have become ubiquitous across the industry for file sharing; and meeting apps like Google Hangouts and Skype are entrenched; but there are certainly many more to come as the industry shifts. (At MetaMoJi, all products designed within our suite of Mobile Productivity Solutions are cross-platform and multilingual, including the 2013 Tabby Awards-winner Note Anytime and the recently launched virtual meeting app called Share Anytime).
The buzz in the latest wave of innovation has been the shift from media consumption to content creation. Tablets and smartphones are quickly moving beyond passive consumer toys used for checking email, reading Facebook or watching YouTube videos.
The new wave of productivity apps is addressing important considerations, such as how to maximize the whitespace from tiny mobile screens, how to move beyond the keyboard with intelligent handwriting recognition, and how to plug in remote employees with easy-to-use collaboration tools.
Those developers who really are considering how to replace pen and paper will win in this next wave of innovation.
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