Take almost anything – news, weather, stocks, social services like Facebook – you name it. PC users have to interact with these things via the web, reducing their super-powerful PC to a dumb terminal. But mobile device users get rich, smooth apps that are a lot more fun to use.
Why is using Flipboard or the SMH App on an iPad better than the experience on my laptop?
Hint: it’s not because of touch.
As a PC user I am increasingly left out. Left to suffer with browser-based experiences while my wife uses her iPad to interact with the same services in a more enjoyable manner.
Apps can remember who you are - they can integrate tightly with other services and most importantly they just work.
An amazing example is the SMH App. Favouriting and sharing is much easier on an iPad than on a laptop because apps can remember who you are effectively without you having to create an account.
Also, at least on Android devices, sharing is consistent across every app: to share a news article on my laptop I have to open up Gmail, select the correspondent, paste a link in and then send it.
Compare that to click a button select a contact, and click send.
There are many reasons I’m motivated to see Windows 8 be successful … Perhaps the biggest though, is apps. For touch, keyboard, and mouse, I want apps.
Windows 8 will enable an app ecosystem. The most compelling reason that it hasn’t existed to date is the lack of a secure sandbox and app store.
The App Store is all about licence management: I don’t have to deal with 100 different vendors and there licencing issues and remember who I bought what from. It’s all in one place. I don’t have to create a new account with each vendor.
The sandbox means I don’t have to worry that some small utility app is going to mess up my entire PC.
I think the lack of apps on the PC is because there’s no store, so no easy way to find and install such apps. Microsoft could have created an app store for Windows 7, but Win7 doesn’t offer a fully sandboxed runtime environment where such apps can be virus and harm-free to the end user.
Mac users benefited from apps before the official App Store because of a psuedo-sandbox: I typically trust that Mac Apps won’t screw up my computer; and they feel easier to remove (ie. just drag it to the trash can).
Another factor is that Mac users seem to be more willing to pay for software.
But do we really want a future full of Apps?
The web has been so innovative because it freed data from silos: you could link between content in different apps (ie. link from my Tumblr to a Blogger post).
Apps offer a better experience - but maybe at the cost of a healthy software ecosystem.