I'm starting to resent Apps like I resented CD-ROMs.
I started playing this evil little game called Tiny Tower last week. It's effectively a Sim-Tower-heroin-clone-resource-management game. Every few hours I return to feed the beast make sure the little "Bitizens" are OK. Moving things, managing resources, restocking virtual shelves with new virtual goods. Mindless and addictive, but pointless.
I realized that I'm doing the same thing with the apps on my phone. I'm always feeding the Update Beast. How often have you looked at Non-Technical Friends phone and showed them how they need to update their apps? All the time.
Installing Apps is like the old Flash CD-ROMs of the 90s. We couldn't do something on the web or over the wire so we used the ultra-high bandwidth of sneakernet along with native APIs to deliver richness. Then we'd endlessly download updates and patches (*cough* Diablo *cough*) until either a new CD-ROM was released or bandwidth increased enough to effectively deliver the whole CD-ROM over the wire.
If you had to install updates to Facebook, do you think you'd use Facebook very long? Auto-updating fixes only part of the problem. Sure, we'll get that feature one day, but the apps are still little islands of functionality that don't talk to each other. It's great that they talk to the Cloud and to various services, but few apps know they aren't alone on my phone. In fact, nearly all my apps live in the Tiny Tower of my phone but think they are alone.
But as a user, more and more, I want to Go Somewhere and get functionality as opposed to Bring Something To Me to get functionality. Managing apps, updates and storage is as pointless as my managing my growing Tiny Tower.
If all these hundreds of apps were places I could go, link to, always updated, and always fast, would they still be apps? Would they just be bookmarks? I think they'd be something else. Web Apps are largely a hack today, no matter what browser you're running. But when what you can do in the browser matches what you can do outside the browser, interesting pressures will start to be applied.
I would hope that users just see better experiences and developers have more fun using better technologies and one day I'd just notice that the "Tiny Tower" of my phone had become a self-managing and connected system. Kind of like a real tower.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
The real win is linking. That's the one thing that the Web brings that apps have yet to replicate.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.