App Internet: The Next Wave

Like most CEOs, you're probably feeling good because your company finally has a great Web site. But don't get too comfortable. The way you connect to your customers is about to change again...

Two ways of computing have dominated over the past 20 years. The first I'll call the "Microsoft model" -- where local personal computers do most of the work. The second model is the Web/Cloud model, in which most of the work happens on remote servers. Both are outmoded. The Microsoft model fails to leverage the economies of scale in the Cloud; Web/Cloud fail to leverage the exponential growth in the power of local storage and processors. 

So what comes next? Something I call the "App Internet." In this model, powerful local devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets) run applications that simultaneously and seamlessly take advantage of resources in the Web/Cloud. If you want to see this model in action, check out iPhone and Android applications.

What does the App Internet mean? The Web, as the dominant software architecture of the Internet, is dead -- for once I'll agree with Chris Anderson over at Wired. The information within App Internet is not easily searchable -- so Google is set for a long fade. Microsoft's deer-in-the-headlights act continues as it sucks the last dollars from a device-centric Office. Apple continues to cruise -- the company is right at the App Internet sweet spot. Facebook faces danger because it is too Web-centric -- note that the company still hasn't shipped an iPad app. Newcomers like Flipboard, who can elegantly repurpose old Web content like Facebook into the App Internet world, will boom -- a lot of cool new companies will occupy this space. Some of the players in the software-as-a-service crowd will sense the change and slide over into App Internet ( -- but a bunch will stay too long at the Web party and get slaughtered. AT&T and Verizon get more bits to carry -- their problem will be delivering enough bandwidth to keep up with the demands of the new model.

How about your company? Neff Hudson, the head of customer experience at the insurance company USAA, said it best at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum, back in June: "We are moving away from the Web and toward Internet-centric applications. That's the future of customer experience for our company."

Translation: As CEO, start pushing your CIO and CMO toward App Internet. The Web was just a warm-up.


'Open' or 'standard' doesn't always cut it ...

I wrote in March 2010 on my blog

"... It is the customer ownership through the iTunes Store that is Appleā€™s dominance and not the devices as such .... The concept of the locked-down AppStore that links the software developer securely with the user, will change the software world! ... Nix Cloud computing! Everyone will have his own applications after all. ... "

Yes, Android will gain importance and may gain more marketshare as more devices might be running it than Apple can deliver. Apple has empowered the software developer and their customers in ways that authors, songwriters and filmmakers can still only dream of. Well, YouTube has done some of that too.

Is Apple being very restrictive and not at all OPEN a problem? No, because it has been able to avoid virus problems sofar. Apple controls the infrastructure, but not the developer, user or the user's information. The Victorian-mindset 'sexy apps' deletion was laughed at all over the world as an Americanism, because what do most people search for on Google? But Google, Facebook and Twitter own the information they gather and for many people that has become an issue. The 'App Internet' as you call it, will be private again and my information can no longer be googled. App interconnection and mobile-to-mobile communiation is still unsolved, but it will become the norm rather than the exception. Web sites and email will be the dinosaurs of the Internet age.

But still, someone will need to define the infrastructure framework to make it secure and it will be those who set the 'open standard' that really isn't. It doesn't even have to be XML, just like Apple doesn't use the 'open' languages Java or Flash. The bandwidth problem you mention might be the reason to abolish XML, because if I communicate privately with my own app why would I accept the immense overhead in network bandwidth and XML parsing? We dumped XML some time back for our node-to-node communications.

As I said, no one cares about 'open' or 'standard' because it doesn't do anything for the user. Yes, for backend and app interoperability we might retain XML/SOA, but I wouldn't even count on that. Steve Jobs taught us a lesson: "Forget Best Practice, open standards and copying other's models - JUST DO what you think is best for your customer!"

Yes, truly exciting times ahead ...

The vulnerability of standards


I love your last paragraph. I think that the tech world has been in the thrall of dejure and defacto standards for the last 20 years -- and those standards (e.g., HTML, the Wintel model, Office formats) have produced a lot of mediocre experiences. Apple has questioned and stopped the insanity...enabling the industry to reach higher again.


Looks a Lot Like Client Server

What's old is new again - I put up a comment on my blog about this. I agree Apps are where it's at. But it's just part of a regular pendulum swing..

The difference

In the client server days there was no standard network. Now we have a single transport (the Internet) that greatly eases the move to the architecture.

Looking forward to your

Looking forward to your article two years from now that will say: "The web is back!"

The future of the Web

It's never going away -- but will diminish in importance. It will become the foyer to the more powerful world of the App Internet.


George, thanks for coming to

George, thanks for coming to Dell this week, I enjoyed your Q&A session.

Adobe will (re)emerge as a key player

If choice, diversity, and rich content are important, going forward (which they clearly are), then I think you will find that Adobe plays a key role in the App Internet's future. Adobe AIR offers "Write once, deploy anywhere" capability (and yes, AIR is available for iOS; only Flash is not available) and Adobe is investing heavily in HTML5. Moreover, Adobe offers some great tooling for multi-platform (multi-output-device) development and continues to innovate in that direction. What Adobe hasn't been good at is countering the myth that everything Adobe delivers is somehow tethered to Flash or PDF. Over time, though, that myth will fade.

I think if you look at the total Adobe story as it applies to creative tooling, development tooling, multi-platform runtime support, pervasive XMP metadata, and the whole Customer Experience Management story, you can't rule out Adobe as a potential big winner in any App Internet scenario.

(I work for Adobe, but my comments are my own and not my employer's.)