Apple has announced the opening of a new paradigm, well maybe a new take on an existing one would be a better way to put it. Yes its the Apple MAC store debuting the 6th of January. Why is this a new paradigm you ask, Apple has the App Store for the iPhone, iPod and iPad so what’s new here?
In short it’s the death of the Mega-App, as covered in a past blog post disposable applications are the wave of the future or at least until the next cycle comes about if you will. As those of us old folks with grey hair remember the early computer days and “public domain” software which were applications one could by for the cost of the media (cassette tapes many times) as the “Public” Internet was yet just a sparkle in Tim Berners-Lee eye. Well ok, html was as Arpanet was sort of around kind of.
The point is these Apps’s typically did one thing and they did it pretty well serving a utilitarian model where you purchased what you needed and got what you purchased. Then came what I refer to as the “polymorphic application age” where one application could be many things to many people like the “spread sheet“. In my time I’ve seen people use this App as a word processor, desktop publishing app, calculator, database and on occasion an honest to goodness spread sheet too. However the issue came about not so much because of the fact of polymorphism, but the “cost” to make the App polymorphic.
To draw a better analogy, say we use a screw driver to hammer something. Hey we all have done it one time or another out of necessity or laziness. However the “screw driver” was just a “screw driver” which we “repurposed” in a “polymorphic” manner by applying it as a hammer. Where as if we took a screw driver and added a hammer head on top (yes they do make these) then the “tool” itself becomes polymorphic rather than the “application”. So when we buy this product, we are paying a portion of the R&D cost for the double design as well as the extra material and manufacturing costs to add the hammerhead.
However herein lays the economic dilemma as first off everyone has to pay the higher costs of the hybrid device weather they need the extra functionality or not. Second, the functionality of the device is impeded by the hybrid design as think of screwing in a “screw” while holding onto a hammer head (yes, I’ve done this it takes more time because you can’t achieve a quick twisting action). Then thirdly is the quality of the resulting work (in comparison to using a screwdriver and hammer, not hammering with a screw driver).
Now we are coming back around full circle as the polymorphic hybrid app, while its life might not be over, it is changing because its functionality has grown so wide and cost so high it no longer makes economic sense. MicroSoft Office ™ is a prime example; as while a powerful application. Few tend use all the goodness which packed into the secret sauce and to boot it is pricing itself out of the market. Couple the growth in intrinsic cost the learning curve which has also grown at a virally steep rate and as time is money the cost to master a hybrid application pushes it past its prime time value.
Enter Apple with applications that do what the users need and have you ever seen an iApp come with a 300 page instruction manual be it PDF or paper? The answer is no as the interface; design and functionality all drive towards usefulness rather than spectrum capabilities.
In short this is another winner move for Apple, and my thoughts now turn toward its inevitable down turn as history does and will repeat itself especially in the fickle consumer market place. As I’am old enough to remember Apple being on top and yes I was the owner of a proud Apple II+ and even learned 6502 assembly programming on it to boot. However as the adage goes, the bigger they are the harder they fall and if you don’t believe me just ask Gates and Ballmer with “MicroWho“?
Footnote: Why is MicroSoft Office ™ still so expensive? If it followed Moore’s Law it should be at only a fraction of its current retail price. Also even with Moore aside the fact that the majority of the rote coding is now done offshore seems to be counter intuitive when one looks at its onshore pricing history.