By Russ Wilson
It is no revelation that the demand for mobile products is driving innovation at an incredibly fast pace. If you think technology moves fast, mobile technology is moving at the speed of light.
According to VentureBeat, on average, 2,371 new mobile apps are published each and every day. That is a staggering number relative to the rate of traditional software products. Admittedly many of those apps will fail, but that’s acceptable and even necessary.
After all, innovation requires experimentation, risk, and iteration. If the constraint of guaranteed success is imposed on the innovator, you will most certainly force the innovator into an engineering mindset and suffocate the kindling of creativity.
But why is there so much demand and speed and innovation in mobile technology? There are four basic drivers.
First, mobile technology is more human, more natural, and we humans want that. From our first introduction to computers we have had to adapt to them. We had to find ways to interact with them using punch cards, keyboards, and mice. Now, computers are adapting to us. We use gestures and voice to interact, and that’s just the beginning. And these new improved and more natural ways of interacting are identified primarily with mobile devices.
We use our computers, but we live with our mobile products.
Second, the barriers to entry are nearly nonexistent. High school students, even middle school students, are creating their own apps and uploading them to online app stores. The tools for creating mobile apps enable non-software engineers to experiment and self-teach themselves how to create apps. It is not unusual for school projects at universities and high schools to include the creation of an “app”.
I recently judged a mobile-app challenge at the University of Texas that combined students from the Computer Science school with students from the School of Journalism. Teams were formed and were required to design, build, and upload an app to the Apple Appstore. These were not experienced engineers following a rigorous product development process — these were students that went from nothing to something that can be sold in a period of months. The consumer barrier to sample or try is also very low with many apps costing nothing or being priced at $.99. Apps are easy to create and easy for consumers to buy, creating a feeding frenzy in the mobile marketplace. I often catch myself browsing the Editor’s Picks to satisfy my need for something new to try.
Thirdly, expectations are high. Mobile technology is a self-feeding machine. As more apps innovative apps are created, expectations increase demanding better apps and more innovation. If an app isn’t gorgeous, easy to use, with a clear distinctive value proposition, it is quickly tossed aside in the fickle “try everything” app economy. The bar is high and everyone is trying hard to be the next mobile app gazzilionaire.
Lastly, the mobile ecosystem has organically evolved into a rich creative environment providing all the necessary ingredients for innovation: a call to action, pressure, challenge, fun, and recognition.
Innovation is a natural consequence of the factors mentioned and there is no reason to expect things to slow down. With mobile technology expanding outward from phones and tablets to the Internet of Things, wearables, and automotive, we can only expect things to move even faster, driving even more innovation and new and exciting products that enrich our lives.