The amount of time spent on mobile apps has increased by 21% from 2014 to 2015, with the mobile app market being worth an estimated $58 billion. That amount will rise to $77 billion by 2017, according to research conducted this year. But it’s not the mobile apps themselves that generate all this money – it’s the services behind them.
At the dawn of the app store gold rush – as the media affectionately calls it – apps were low in numbers and simplistic: reminders, photography, note taking, doodling apps, match-three games etc. As time progressed, not only were there more apps to be found, but their complexity grew as well, and so did the hardware they ran on. Their numbers grew from mere thousands to billions, as more developers started leveraging newer, more advanced technology, but also another game changer.
The Cloud was not a novelty when the second and third app stores emerged, but it had yet to show its teeth. On your smartphone, the line between app and service is a little blurred. Spotify exists as an app on your phone, but what you’re using is a music service hosted on far-away data centers. Dropbox essentially displays your allotted server space as a list of files and folders. But looking at smart homes, the distinction becomes a lot clearer. You control the appliances from one app on your phone, yes, but this app is just a control panel for the orchestra of gizmos behind it (thermostat, garage door, alarm etc.). This is actually the backbone of the Internet of Things (IoT), which promises a revolution of the first order not just in the form of smart homes and cars, but smart cities too.
Also in the crosshairs is the business sector. Today, it’s actually cheaper and more productive to outsource software and services – SaaS, PaaS, IaaS – than to use dedicated machinery and apps that take up space, resources and manpower to maintain on your premises. It’s the reason why VoipNow is successful, and more and more companies are finding this out every day.
Apps are essentially becoming interfaces for the contextual services behind them. So if you’re trying to make it big in software, try envisioning the context first, then the service, then the app. All the data points to the app store gold rush being on its last legs and a new era emerging with contextual services at its core.