Is Everything an App?

iPhone Apps.  Android Apps.  Google TV will have Apps.  It seems everything is becoming an App.

Now I'm all for some interesting slang, but I think what we're seeing is something deeper here.

An "App" of course is short for Application, such as a Word Processor, only it seems the term is broadening.  You can turn your book into an App, you can make an App that's a game, you can make an App that interfaces with Social Media services.  It seems that the "App" really is a term for "something specific you do on a piece of technology."

I think this is great because it actually brings out an important truth about our media and our technologies – they're about doing things and getting information.  It's all Apps.

Everything *IS* an App in the media and technology (and thus the geekonomy).  A game is a tool that delivers entertainment and content.  A book is a storage and information retrieval device (as is of course an eBook).  A social media tool that integrates social media is a tool for keeping track of when your friends complain about their cats.

The age of the iPhone, the Social Media Embed, etc. have just made people aware of it, and is consolidating the way we get a lot of media and tools in one way – the idea of the App.

Our new "App-awareness" really just is a reminder that what a lot of us make or support or manage are tools – applications – that deliver certain things to people.  Manga, games, word processors, video feeds – they're all the same.  The Age of the App, where everything is being condensed down to these single downloads and installs and Social Media embdeds just makes it obvious.

What does this mean?

  1. It means people are viewing old things differently.  They're "App-conscious" now, and are thinking in terms of applications for both general and specific tasks.  Your book, game, software, television show, etc. is going to need to keep that in mind.
  2. It means people are getting used to delivery of media in an "applike" way, from actual Apps to concise services (think Amazon's one-click).  People are used to not just general tools, but specialized tools.
  3. It means "bleed over" from technology back to other areas.  The trends in Apps will affect how people design games (well, it already has), deliver media (which it is affecting), and design media.  How many authors out there working on a book are wondering how it will do in an eBook?  How many people doing websites are wondering about making an app to deliver content – and looking at other things to do with that content?
  4. It means people are thinking in "bits of usefulness" – Apps – which will affect what they buy in the future.  People want Apps – and makers of tools and programs and soforth need to deliver.

Welcome to the App Age.  It's all Apps from here on out – until we come up with some new concept and slang.

– Steven Savage