There is an incredibly interesting paradigm shift happening around us in software and hardware: As the single-use hardware devices are on their way out, specialized single-use web products and apps are on their way in. I’ve felt this way strongly about software for the past 18 months, but the thought on hardware was triggered by this particular Washington Post article: 2013: The end of the iPod, digital camera and DVD player?
How many of us wear watches in our daily lives? I bet not too many. Now rewind a meagre 10 years when wearing a watch wasn’t so much about a fashion statement, but a necessity. Everyone had one. I had a crappy one that I had bought for $4. What killed it? Mobile phones, simple feature mobile phones!
Another must have hardware was a camera, that too a film camera. Add to that a minimum cost of $6 to develop the film role of 36 photographs. Wow, seems really long back, ain’t it? What killed it? Digital camera!
Today, how many of us own and use a separate camera? I bet not too many. Our smartphones (coupled with Instagram) are quite capable devices of capturing daily moments. Honestly, they do a far better job of capturing regular moments than a separate camera could ever do. Think of a world where everyone has a camera hanging around their necks to easily share every sunset, pasta or a game of beer pong at a frat party. Now think of how awkward it would be to hug people. Ok, obviously that doesn’t work.
[Check out this snap. Taken from my iPhone 4 in 2011 at Monument Valley]
Lastly, when was the last time you bought a separate music player? I bought an iPod in 2009, but now use it as a portable 120 GB hard drive. Also, why would you buy even a 500GB music player and endlessly download torrents when you have access to the world of music through Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Deezer, Saavn and the likes.
Simply put, the future is integrated hardware devices; devices that go beyond the perceived primary use that enable super human multi tasking skills. Best example is BMW letting its drivers send emails and check fuel prices while ride.
WEB PRODUCTS AND APPS:
On the software front, the bandwagon is headed in the opposite direction. Users are slowly flocking to single-use applications that provide more of a personalized experience rather than ‘we do it all but not so well’ websites.
I know people who use 2-3 music consumption products in US & Canada. They use Spotify when they want to listen to pre-arranged playlists, Pandora for artist specific radio like experience and Songza for mood based listening pleasures. Why? Because each one of them do one thing really well.
Most of us go beyond the two quintessential social networks Facebook & Twitter. We cling to Instagram for pictures, Foursquare for locations, Viddy for videos, GetGlue for movies/TV shows, LinkedIn for professionals, Untappd for beers, Fanatix for sports, CafeMom for moms (duhh!), Dribbble for designers, Pair for couples & many more depending on our personal interests and needs. These are niche social apps highly targeted at certain hobbies, skills & interests. If you were to network with designers, where would you go – Facebook, Foursquare or Dribbble?
Even e-commerce & OTA space is undergoing the same phenomenon. In India, you go to redBus to book bus tickets, Yatra to book flights, IRCTC for train tickets, Fetise for men’s fashion, Made In Health for fitness and health, etc.
Having said this, the future of software isn’t as crystal clear as hardware. Though we are seeing a rise in specialized apps, the heavyweights like Amazon, Spotify, Expedia and Facebook aren’t lifting their feet off the growth accelerator anytime soon.
If you were to develop hardware or software, what approach would you follow: single-use or multi-use?
This post was originally published on the #nwplyng blog.