The next generation of mobile apps gets personal

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The mobile market is a perfect example of innovation at its best. App stores, first introduced by Apple and then copied by everyone else, are only four years old—but already, they are a driving force that have created a brand new market worth billions of dollars.

The mobile app market really represents a microcosm of the larger IT marketplace and where it's going. The mobile app market got to be so big, so quickly, because of a few factors: The existence of easy-to-join app stores; the continuing development of robust, inexpensive and easy-to-use mobile development platforms; and ubiquitous smartphones and tablets. This combination resulted in an incredible rush of entrepreneurial activity. Because of the low barrier to entry, the market was never dominated exclusively by a handful of large companies, and as a result, we have tremendous choice and a vibrant marketplace.

Forrester Research principal analyst Thomas Husson noted in a recent blog post that "app stores have already had a dramatic impact on the distribution of games and are starting to offer new forms of engagement between brands and consumers." To the point, more people are using their smartphones and tablets to run mobile apps, and more often than not, they run more than one.

What types of apps do users want, though? The first generation of apps didn't take full advantage of the platform, and lacked integration with other systems. Further development of platforms-as-a-service, the cloud, and the mobile app SDKs themselves now make that a slam-dunk, and the next generation of mobile apps will be every bit as far-reaching, smart, and complete as what's on your desktop. Husson makes a few predictions, specifically, that big data will play a major role in mobile apps, they will be smarter and better connected, we will see a shift to more hybrid and web-based apps, and more of them will be multiplatform (the iPhone's no longer the only game in town).

There is still a lot of play left and the barrier to entry is getting even lower. As mentioned in an earlier column on platform-as-a-service, it's easier than ever to create, deploy, and sell mobile apps, and now is a great time to get into the market before it gets locked up by the early front-runners.

Husson also notes that mobile app developers will do well to continue to add new features and services, a business model that is standard with other applications but not always present in the mobile market. Mobile developers will need to take this to heart, especially as the difference between mobile apps and desktop apps continues to narrow.

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