Shiny thing make it all better (sic)

The title is taken from the excellent Daily Mash and is their description of their own app.

I have just finished and submitted my most recent app to the iTunes store for approval for sale (You can read about it here). It is an attempt to provide useful and topical functionality presented in an appealing way. Five years ago (or less) to produce this I would have had to :-

  • Decide on the hardware (Chipset ) I was going to use.
  • Write the software for that chipset.
  • Commission the manufacture of the device somewhere.
  • Pay up front for the design, prototyping, manufacture and approvals processes in each market I wanted to sell it in.
  • Commission or devise a marketing strategy, then pay for and implement it, and finally …
  • Respond to the inevitable huge demand by shipping units to customers world-wide.

… or not.

It would have been a huge gamble and would have involved the speculative tying up of resources (Human, physical and financial) and the shipping of physical objects across the face of the earth. It would also have been expensive to buy. All for something designed to bring a couple of minutes fun to every day.

Nicholas Negroponte of MIT’s media lab describes two shifts we are currently undergoing :-

  • The shift of communications to land bound means (Cable, fibre etc.) except where mobility is essential, freeing up the airwaves for a future of always connected, high bandwidth communications, and …
  • The shift from moving atoms about the face of the earth when we buy music, films and software to shifting bits around on networks.

The second of these is analogous to the shift of western economies towards the provision of services rather than goods, broadly the goods come west, the services go east. Whether or not this geographic trend continues, I think it is clear that Negroponte is right that we will be buying fewer and fewer physical artefacts which have to be manufactured and moved about in what Neal Stephenson calls “meatspace” and more services will be provided by moving bits around.

When we consider all the devices lying around (Some even with their chargers) which when current were only used for a fraction of the time, its not difficult to envisage a significant reduction in the waste of time, energy and resources that went into their production. Some of this will be transferred to the production of increasingly powerful and ubiquitous smartphones but this is much more forgivable given the high level of utilisation they get.

A brighter day dawns for all, I think, when people like me can get hold of shiny things to make life better as apps for pennies rather than as techno clutter.