App-ified Visions Of The Mobile Future

If you’re like me and you work in the technology world, last week gave us a lot to digest. Microsoft (full disclosure: this is my employer) gave a meaty and well-received update on Windows 10News spread that revenues generated by mobile entertainment almost matches what we spend at the new movie box office, a key watermark that indicates respectability, if not heft. At Davos, Google’s chairman, Eric Schmidt, talked about the transformative effect of smartphone apps, which not only empowers users but also has given rise to new companies and services that have reorganized the industry itself.

Schmidt’s extolling of apps is notable. Google would seem to be predisposed to a world that is more tightly tethered to the web because internet advertising remains by far Google’s top revenue source. Protecting that revenue source would seem to encourage Google to favor even more internet usage, which helps explain its leap into cellular service. A massive shift away from the web toward apps could be disruptive, so perhaps Schmidt’s observation is a message to his company: “Search engine revenues don’t insulate us from change. We need to be as useful and profitable in an app-dominated world as we are in today’s web-based landscape.”

That’s not to say that apps don’t have their share of challenges. They can be difficult to discover, acquiring them can require many steps, and they tend not to cooperate well with one another in the way web pages do.

Some of these things should improve soon. You can expect powerful digital tools that don’t require a browser or navigating an app store. For example, Microsoft’s Cortana, a digital assistant that has come with Windows Phone for several months, enables users to launch searches, set reminders, trigger calls, and so much more, and she’s accessible at all times with no more than two screen taps.

Expect the lines between apps and internet to increasingly blur, as I discussed last week. Apps will provide information from the web, and the web increasingly will see into apps, exposing more of their content and capabilities to search engines.

Search itself will become increasingly embedded in the digital tools we use. Whether we need to find a file on our hard drives or in the cloud, or whether we need a data point from anywhere on the internet, search will become more accessible and more responsive to direct questions. We’ll shift from entering a topic into a browser and sifting through mountains of results to something akin to asking your favorite teacher any question you could ever imagine, all without leaving whatever app you’re using.

Mobile marketers: Assume that at least half of just about every digital action your customers make comes by way of a mobile phone or tablet. If you haven’t done so already, make 2015 the year you articulate your product’s, brand’s and/or company’s vision for its mobile presence. If your business objectives warrant building an app, make it great. If you don’t have one yet, make sure you create a mobile website to capture browsing users and to give your mobile advertising a destination.

You may find yourself groping at first, if not failing at certain things. If so, join the club. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll learn, making the industry’s rapid pace a lot less scary.

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