Windows Phone 7 passed the 50,000 app mark today according to All About Windows Phone. As well, the Windows Phone 7 platform is adding apps at an increasing rate. This announcement of course will be followed by the quasi-religious banter pitting how this demonstrates that Window phone is increasingly relevant vs how this represents only a tenth of the apps available for iPhone and therefore Windows Phone is too little too late. There is heaps of emotion tied up in this never-ending-finger-in-the-ears (picture a 5 year-old with fingers in his ears “la-la-la-la-la I can’t hear you”) debate. It’s as if one’s choice in phone platform is correlated to some greater existential meaning in life – with the size of the app marketplace being the measure of worth. App store count and the resultant arguments, while great for press and simpleton comparison, are costly and completely meaningless from a business productivity standpoint.
What I want to know is how did the side-show become the main attraction? How did a device that was supposed to make our lives simpler and more efficient become the thing that is overwhelming us? Think of how much time you can spend browsing you phone’s mobile marketplace productivity category. How is that being productive? You’ll soon have to use an app just to find apps. Two costly drawbacks of the large app marketplaces are:
- Marketplace App count has no relation to app usefulness
- Apps are often isolated entities with no connection to other apps or data
The number of marketplace apps is really pushed as a demonstrative measure of success by the mobile platforms. However, good publicity for them does not make good productivity for us. It would be good to reject this push and reshape the measuring stick. Having a million apps in your phone’s marketplace is no indication of how useful the device and platform will be in business. (For that matter, probably on a personal level either). Worse yet, those million apps will actually increase the signal-to-noise ratio and actually keep you from identifying truly great and productive apps. We currently have no good mechanism to measure app usefulness in a given category.
An app by itself can be a productivity tool just as software installed on a PC can be a source of productivity. But productivity will reach a limit when all the functionality is leveraged -the useful ness is then capped. There is no added functionality without an app update. Thinking in terms of app counts completely misses the power and point of the cloud and a mobile platform’s ability to integrate with it. We need to be thinking in terms of ecosystems not apps. Thinking in terms of ecosystems gets us thinking in terms of what capabilities we can connect together to get a real boost in productivity. Thinking in terms of singular function apps is the PC mind-rut we are stuck in.
BYOD, the Consumerization of IT (CoIT), and mobility are a cresting wave rolling into shore will all its seemingly unstoppable power and force. It will crash down hard on businesses. We all really need a mechanism to channel that wave into useful energy that can be harnesses by the workforce. We need to be able to convert the energy into productivity. How will the wave crash down on you and your business? Will you let it be random and widespread or concentrated? Are you prepared to channel it?