Apps have revolutionized the mobile industry and become so successful and mainstream that they’re almost taken for granted – so what comes next? How are apps evolving to stand out in an increasingly crowded market, and to fulfill the wide range of ambitions that companies have for them? These were the key questions of Apps World,where thousands of developers, marketers, equipment vendors and others converged in San Francisco in February to try and take the hugely successful market to the next level.
Pinning down the size of the worldwide apps market is tough. Quotes can range anywhere from $25 billion to $35 billion by the end of 2013 (or later), and estimates for apps downloaded appear to be somewhere between 44 billion and over 100 billion, depending on who you ask and when.
What is clear, however, is the growing importance of mobile apps for companies both inside and outside the telco space. At Apps World, developers and marketers came together with CIOs and OEMs to discuss how companies are approaching app design and development, six years after Apple and Android introduced their own app stores.
One focus of many of the talks and panels at the show was second-screen use. This is relevant both to broadcasters like CBS, which has used its app to drive engagement with its top-rated shows like Big Brother or the Grammy Awards, as well as to TiVo, which started out offering mainly second-screen functions and has now moved into offering TV Everywhere functionality through its apps.
These companies are interested in second-screen as an ad delivery platform, given that a TV viewer typically turns to their smartphone or tablet when the commercials are on. The key for a player like CBS, then, is to provide added engagement with its shows – and as a result its advertisers – at these times.
Companies are also increasingly using their apps as their first, or even main, point of contact with customers. Talking with some (rather frustrated) delegates outside of the sessions, there’s the impression that some companies view mobile apps the way they would have viewed web pages ten years ago: as an information service, which they had to invest in because all their competitors had one.