Going Mobile

15 10 2010

A decade ago, one of the coolest, sexiest jobs on the planet was that of web designer. The internet was still new enough that there were plenty of new gigs to go around, so much so that even kids with Microsoft Front Page on their machine could effectively become web designers and make a few bucks.

Much has changed in that decade. While we will always need websites (and web designers), the market demand has calmed down considerably. Web work these days tends to be more focused on site updates and tweaks, back-end database integrations, and an occasional overhaul. Gone are the days, though, when everyone was buying their first website.

Today, developers have found several new veins to mine, the first two being custom Facebook pages (capable of restructuring much of the FB palette, as well as hosting e-commerce) and mobile apps capable of handling m-commerce.

A number of things are happening all at once. Over 50% of the US population now has a smartphone, all of which are capable of hosting apps. These users are now evolving from just games, information and a few productivity tools to more sophisticated apps that allow m-commerce and banking.

Which can mean only one thing: The app landscape is about to become crowded with zillions of store-specific apps. If you think your iPhone has a lot going on now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Furthermore, the phones just keep getting more and more powerful, and security issues are being addressed. Toss in our hectic always-moving lifestyles, and the demand for mobile solutions is easily understood.

But an even bigger (and virtually untapped) market is for apps developed solely for a company and its employees. Think enterprise solutions, so that employees do not have to be tethered to a desktop computer. These emerging apps will allow workers to tap into company networks and in-house software.

This latter type of app is so huge that software developers are preparing for a gold rush of new business. These apps will be more generic in nature, and will be designed to work across smartphone platforms.

In other words, if WT had such an app, I would have been able to input my 2011 curriculum changes from my phone rather than having to sit at my office desk.

And when you consider that tablet devices like iPad and Blackberry’s new PlayBook are set to take off, it’s obvious why we need business-specific apps. The office is wherever, whenever.

I have done my fair share of websites through the years, and still do a few from time to time. The nature of the work has changed considerably, and I recall with fondness the gold rush years of the late-1990s. It was a great time to know how to be able to code, but so is today.

And as for workers who fear having their office with them 24/7, I can only advise to just get over it. This knife cuts both ways. Our complete mobility allows us to work outside the office (a good thing), but at the same time sometimes requires us to work away from the office (which can be a bad thing). Figuring out how to balance the good and evil will be up to us.

In the mean time, if WT ever gets such an app, I’ll be among the first to download it. Nothing is worse than sitting through the dinner hour at work attending to the tedium of administrivia that can only be done on a network PC.

I’ll save some space on my phone.

Dr “Don’t Worry, Be Appy” Gerlich

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