This week marked a diverse set of technology milestones: Apple’s app store turned five; Microsoft announced that it’s reorganizing and Amazon’s stock crossed $300 per share. For those of us who’ve grown up in the software industry, it’s been a week underscoring the fact that software is eating the world.
Maybe you haven’t been paying attention…
The app store model has massively changed the way in which software is discovered by and distributed to consumers. Apple’s app store was an afterthought. But, in many ways, it’s the store that ushered in the age of the smartphone. In five short years, consumers have:
Downloaded over 100 billion apps in the two major app stores.
Shifted over 80 percent of their time on their mobile devices to apps.
Every information business is being impacted.
For the bulk of the software industry’s history, the agenda has been set by the large corporations, governments and large players in the information economy. The economic benefits were massive. And, here in Seattle, we’ve felt those impacts acutely, with Microsoft leading the way, growing into a “Fortune 1” software company.
Consumers now wield significant influence, however and are starting to set the agenda. How can we tell? Well, consider this:
Telco consolidation has accelerated, largely because consumer data requirements have grown faster than anticipated, rewarding those with the largest cash flow and room for capital expenditure.
The “consumerization of IT” phrase is so well-worn that it’s an accepted fact in most parts of the software industry, despite the fact that we’ve only had Exchange support on our iPhones for three years. We’ve brought our preferences into the office in record pace, part of the reason my friends at Mobilisafe were positioned so well they had to be bought.
What’s exciting: Seattle’s perfectly positioned in my view to ride the trends.
As the CEO of a mobile-focused company I see two major reasons to be super optimistic about the next 10 years in the software industry:
The emphasis on the consumer makes me happy personally. My phone is fast becoming my remote control for everything. Print my boarding pass a day in advance? Forget that, I just open up the Alaska Airlines app, check in and have everything I need in 20 seconds.
As someone who has been living in the world of 0’s and 1’s for decades, I absolutely love that there is now widespread acceptance that software is key to every industry’s ability to accomplish their goals.
These trends could not be any better for the Seattle software community. If you look around you can see a common theme to the companies who have grown up in the Seattle area: they are customer obsessed. Whether it’s Nordstrom or REI, Starbucks or Costco, Amazon or Zulily, we have a tradition here in the Northwest: Take extraordinary care of your customer.
Our software pedigree is second to none. Microsoft, Amazon, RealNetworks, Expedia, Zillow and many other local companies have led the revolution in personal computing and used the Internet to transform the way in which people use technology to lead their lives.
This means that as software becomes more personal, our pool of talented professionals is uniquely suited to dreaming up the future and building it. Witness the stunning growth of Moz or HasOffers, companies rethinking the way marketing is done across the web and mobile. They’re able to tap into our deep bench of technical talent to build the future. And as Moz CEO Rand Fishkin shared with us a few weeks ago, Seattle’s talent environment is favorable and sustainable.
And what’s next?
Well, for starters, we should expect the growth to continue accelerating.
When MobileDevHQ CEO Ian Sefferman, GameHouse senior director Ryan Morel and I had our weekly app marketing conversation this week we focused on the past 5 years. One of the key takeaways was that we’re clearly just getting started, given that only about 1/7th of the world has started to truly adopt smartphones.
Every business I talk to has mobile on the tips of their tongues. Their customers are visiting them on mobile devices more often every day and the challenge for most companies is finding resources and expertise to build out their mobile experiences. This is very much the behavior that we saw from companies in the early 2000’s —the investment case had been made for the Internet and companies were then in “catch up mode” for the rest of the decade.
As consumers, we should expect our digital lives to continue becoming more personal. From the coffeeshops we visit to the vacations we plan, the connection our phones are creating for us enable every company to deliver an Amazon-like personalized experience.
The secret to Amazon’s tremendous success is that they’ve built software that is incredible at reducing friction in every one of their customers’ lives. We can look forward to being able to expect this from every company we deal with in the future. Seattle’s customer ethos is set to spread globally and I’m excited by the opportunity for our community to lead the way.
Robi Ganguly is CEO of Apptentive, a Seattle startup that focuses on in-app feedback. You can follow him on Twitter @rganguly.