The Future is Now…in the basement of the Apple store

February 8, 2011

Talking Tech – Apple Apps

Hello hello,

This week’s event, Talking Tech: Apple Apps, promised to satisfy my long-held curiosity of the Age of the App,™ a term which may or may not already be coined. If not, I’m calling dibs. If so, just kidding, and please remember that lawsuits often cost more than they’re worth.

I love technology.

I fully admit that I am not tech savvy. Like, I was disappointed to learn that I couldn’t turn my flip phone into an iPhone with a simple download. But I’m also not the kind of guy who wants to get in the way of history’s march. Viva la App Revolucion,™ I always say. So I was pretty excited to learn about the fast-developing world of apps from the market runners themselves, those clever cats at Apple.

About fifteen WiCM folks converged upon the Upper West Side Apple Store for the event. Mike, our Apple wizard, led us through a quick overview of iOS devices (the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the iPad). I have to say, this iPad thing is wicked. Its multi-touch navigation and gyroscopoto-photographerialmetric functionality are beginning to change the way people engage technology. And the new one is lighter than a birthday wish whispered from a pixie’s lips.

The heart of Mike’s presentation was the apps themselves—what they are, where consumers can find them, and which ones have hit mania status. We received a quick demonstration of a few of blockbusters. If you haven’t checked these out, you should. They’re incredibly cool, fun, and creativity-inspiring.

  • Periodic Table was a beautifully designed and extensively hyperlinked version of the periodic table of the elements. No more will Saturday nights be spent with a boring old paper chart.
  • Cut the Rope was a problem-solving game based on physics and housed in a cool, simple design. I really dug this one.
  • Angry Birds is perhaps the hottest game app out there right now. If you don’t know about it, man, I don’t even know why you’re talking to me.

A quick demonstration of these apps illustrated the iPad’s current versatility. Fun and entertainment. Schools and education. Magic and alchemy. You’ve seen the ads. But the future is even more promising. App development means that the average Jane has new agency to turn this device into a tool for an idea’s expression. If you can think of a use, you can probably write an app to make it happen…and cheaply. It’s another step in the democratization of media, and it’s pretty exciting.

Of course, there are certain difficulties that come with progress. Most striking is the challenge of meeting user expectations. There’s a tendency to compare apps to their closest traditional media forms and judge accordingly. A game app might disappoint when compared to a full scale video game, for example.

A compounding issue relates to our growing understanding of the iPad’s potential. Will users be disappointed if an app doesn’t make full use of the iPad’s capabilities? In the case of Rumpelstiltskin, a storybook program, will an app with only limited interactivity satisfy?

Despite these thoughts and concerns, I left with a real sense of possibility. It was clear that the iPad was a powerful and incredibly flexible tool. And the low barriers to development meant that more and more people could harness its potential.

The response of WiCM’s attendees bolstered my optimism. The intent of the evening was to begin the app conversation among WiCM members. Jenn DiLullo asked some thought-provoking questions in her role as moderator (my first WiCM blog shoutout!). The group responded with great ideas—ideas for original apps as well as improvements on the apps being showcased. The vast creative talent of the WiCM attendees was clear; there’s no doubt in my head that these are the minds that will push the People’s App Movement™ to new and exciting places.

Over and out,

Lucas