Think of this as Volume 16, Number 28 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
Not underwater, mind you. Under the water.
That's because the world of “applications” is over. It's all about the apps now, brutha. And no one in the app business has yet gone public. The smart VC guys and private equity people are putting tons of money into the space, so there's no need to go public, no need to give the public investor a taste.
It's like the social boom. You'll know the bust has started when one of these outfits starts looking for suckers on NASDAQ.
Doesn't mean there's no there, there. There is. I found that out Monday when I went to a “MeetUp” for Techcrunch.com at the Sweetwater Brewery, a few miles from my home.
The place was packed. Cars were parked around the corner and down the next street. (They could do it because this is a warehouse district where everyone else goes home around 5 PM.) There were well over 3,000 people there. Mostly male, mostly young, mostly white. But not exclusively. I was also pleased to find two people who rode bikes there. A guy my own age who admitted he'd taken the train to a nearby transit stop, and a younger guy who'd ridden 8 miles in rush-hour traffic.
Apps are not applications. Apps come up instantly, no waiting. Apps run on someone else's infrastructure. The Apple iPhone was the first “app” platform, but there's now the Google Android platform, the Microsoft platform, even a Facebook platform (and Amazon isn't far behind).
While applications age naturally, growing constantly over time and gradually becoming unwieldy, apps are more like butterflies. Most appear and disappear quickly, before the bugs can be found. And there's often not much code to them, since as I note they're running on someone else's infrastructure. That means most things are pre-defined, and handled by someone else.
Most app developers aren't working for big companies or in big teams. You can be a one-man band in the app game, just as you could in blogging a decade ago. There are lots of people working on “app engines” to make creating apps ever-easier, even self-service. I might even be able to write an app one day, and I only program in English.
Right now the world of apps is a world of freelancers. I saw more t-shirts and shorts coming in from work at the Sweetwater than I have in my own closet.
Yes, this will change. We know how it will change, because we've seen it in blogging and seen it in social, just as we saw it in the Internet and other tech industries throughout the late 20th century. The more successful app developers want to spend all their time writing, and associate with a publisher. The successful publishers scale and buy one another up. The most successful ones eventually hit the stock market, and that's your signal to sell. (Again, just like social.)
What I have always liked about covering tech, and I have been doing it for 30 years now, is that the story is always changing yet always staying the same. The patterns abide, but the game is changing, the faces changing, leaders becoming followers and followers becoming leaders.
When I started writing this as an e-mail newsletter, I called those who knew what they were doing “clued-in” and those who didn't “clueless.” Once you see patterns repeat several times, you can figure this out pretty quickly. And having a clue doesn't guarantee success – if it did I'd be a big Internet publisher. You have to execute.
But as with Moore's Law itself, faster and faster keeps getting faster and faster. Last year it was cloud, the year before that social, the year before that mobility. Now it's apps. Someone ran a Photoshop of the President recently, based on the Harry Truman “Dewey Beats Truman” picture, only it had him holding up an iPad with CNN's false coverage of the health care decision on it.
The iPad came out in 2009.
You can date any movie of the last 30 years precisely, just by looking at the technology people are using. Are they sitting at a desk in front of a green screen? It's the 80s. With a graphical user interface? The '90s. How big is the cell phone – that gets you within two years. And as time has gone on more-and-more storylines involve the Internet. On “The Good Wife” every plot covers Internet law.
I love tech. I love my life, because I love change. And tech is always changing. The very nature of tech is changing, as energy and robotics come to the fore, and as the Internet steadily becomes the focus of education. I'm 57 ½ now, closer to 65 than to 50, but there will be many turns of the wheel to come before I retire, many clues to be learned, and many, many clueless people to be laughed at.
Stick around and enjoy.