Have you noticed recently how much less sexy the software for your PC is now compared to the latest Apps on your smartphone or iPad? You don't find people talking around the watercooler about this great new desktop application they downloaded. You do, however, hear them comparing Apps and suggesting the latest and greatest Apps to install on their iOS and Android devices. You're even beginning to hear the old religious wars emerging among mainstream users, only this time, instead of Mac vs. Windows, it's iPhone vs. Android and App Store vs. Android Marketplace.
The point here is that we now live in an App world. Desktop applications obviously have their place. You still can't run Adobe CS5 on a smartphone, downloaded on the cheap from an App store (although the Photoshop.com Mobile App is free and remarkably effective ). Most people, though, spend more time with their phones than they do with their computers. I wrote most of this post sitting on a commuter train headed into New York City as yesterday and was the only one in my very full car with a laptop out. Plenty of people had laptop bags, but the only electronics I saw out are iPads, smartphones of various brands and carriers, and a lone Kindle.
The laptops probably came out when all of these people got to their destinations, but think back to train and airplane rides even a year ago. Why do you think netbooks were so popular or executives were willing to pay top dollar for an ultraportable? No matter how crowded the conveyance, you could still get work done (or take some needed down time and watch a movie or play solitaire). Now, pull out a phone and communicate to your heart's content (or take some needed down time and watch a movie, read a book, watch YouTube, watch TV shows, listen to music, play games that are far cooler than solitaire...you get the idea).
The current crop of smartphones, despite their lack of a full-blown desktop-style OS, provide instant gratification and, in many cases, a richer experience than many laptops. After all, laptops don't have an App store with hundreds of thousands of gaming, entertainment, and productivity applications, many of which are free. They don't have countless developers cranking out new, light applications every day. Your laptop just has Microsoft Office. And while I'm a big fan of the latest iteration of Office, it just lacks the cool factor of SpringPad or the myriad social Apps that are just a couple finger swipes away on my smartphone.
So where am I going with all of this? It isn't news to anyone that mobile platforms are the next computing battleground, both in consumer and enterprise spaces. There's a reason that Google has pushed so hard and fast on Android development. However, for a guy who lives in the country and only does the rat race once a month or so, popping into the city for meetings and conferences, I couldn't help but be struck by the rapid shift in the way we compute. It's a bit like time lapse photography: 1 month there are lots of laptops and plenty of clicking. The next month there are a few less and, wait, is that an iPad? Then, suddenly, who needs a laptop?
The real story here is for developers and for Microsoft. It's no wonder that Asus dumped Windows for Android on their upcoming tablet. Who, outside the enterprise (and even that's sketchy) wants an App-less Windows on their tablet? All the cool kids at least have an the App Store on their iPads.