Has our appetite for apps gone wild or are we just on the appetizer?
September 20, 2010
I’ve been thinking about apps. Apps is an abbreviation for application. An app is a piece of software. It can run on the Internet, on your computer, or on your phone or other electronic device.
From games to geo tracking, with Google or Apple, on computers to smart phones: you name it, there is an app for that or will be soon. They are ubiquitous.
Social media maven, Alan Wolk (The Toad Stool, Kickapps, Hive Awards) was in our office the other day discussing apps and their implications to marketing communications, specifically the right and wrong ways to make apps. Clients are clamoring for apps, he said, but most of them don’t know why. They just know that apps are the new, new thing and they want one…or two…or a whole bunch. As you would expect, we agencies are creating them, often as willy-nilly as the demands. Alan calls it the “Field of Dreams” mentality. You know, ‘build it and they will come.’ Like all things Internet related, the apps debate quickly becomes one of utility vs. beauty. Like all things marketing related, the obvious answer is they gotta do both.
But I wonder about apps. If there are currently three million of them (a wild guess) I’m not so wildly guessing three million nine hundred and fifty thousand of them are relatively pointless. Maybe even more. I say relatively because once someone downloads an app, pointless or not, it has proved beneficial to its creator.
But then what? My kids download countless apps (hopefully free) only to banish them within 24 hours into the nether regions of our family’s computers. Like fireworks, once ignited they are immediately forgotten. Like fireworks, we want to see another and another and another…
Ah, you say, but if the app is useful then that won’t happen.
Alan provided an excellent anecdote to illustrate this point. Upon arriving in Chicago, he had an hour to kill before his presentation. He fancied a latte from Starbucks but, alas, he did not know where one was. So, he was forced to ask someone. According to Alan, if he’d had an app for locating a nearby Starbucks he would not have had to ask someone for directions.
Two things come to mind. 1) What is so difficult about asking someone where the nearest Starbucks is and 2) even if he had an app for that wouldn’t he still have had to ask someone where the address actually was? (Sure, he could study the little map on his iphone but being ignorant of the city he’d probably want to be pointed in the right direction. Just to make sure. Wouldn’t you?)
Going one step further, isn’t communicating with people one of the joys of travel? Do we really want technology to take things like that away from us, those myriad small interactions that make us human? I’m already an introvert. With apps like these I may never talk to anyone!
Look, I realize I’m essentially wrong about this. (I remember all the rubes that said Twitter was pointless.) And even if I wasn’t wrong the app train has left the station. As I said, plenty of apps are worthwhile. No question companies such as Kickapps can help agencies and clients create them. Frankly, we’re talking to Kickapps about a project right now.
I’m no Luddite. I’d just like to think I could find a Starbucks without a goddamn app!