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iOS work & play


In praise of niche developers

28 May 2015

It's sad when a good app falls by the wayside because it didn't realise it's niche. Many developers still don't really get it – the iPad, and NOT the app, is the one-stop-shop.

The great thing about the iOS development model is that it has delivered Apple's old promise of "open docs" - lean apps as components versus bloat apps that try to do everything (a one-eyed user viewpoint). The first few of years of iOS saw a gradual stream of apps – many were games and some were promising. Very clever, very innovative and ever so streamlined - but they mostly didn't talk to each other. Couldn't. Then came iPad and things started to amp up quite a bit. There is a fable here that goes like this...

As the apps developed along with iOS developers came to a fork in the road with many taking the fast lane of mis-used opportunity, others went via the road less travelled found a niche and stuck to it. On that latter route a lot of developers miffed by their missing out on the big bikkies took the onramp to the fast lane. Some surged ahead, some fell behind. There was an avalanche of new users populating and cheering on from the sidelines causing numerous exits into mega-fad-land to appear along the highway. This resulted in buy-outs, takeovers, crashes and deadends.

Ten years later there is a lesson to be learned. People do funny things with new technology. They buy it and try it and toss it, or they try it and buy it. iOS users seem to fall into two categories (generally speaking) those that use their device primarily for recreation (recUsers) and those that use it in their workflow (proUsers). Security concerns are a given for either group, accessibility and storage preferences really depend on how much bandwidth the user has. The recUsers tend to prefer apps that allow them to do as much as possible with the one app – so easy and fast access to Photos and social apps is important. 

ProUsers are also concerned with this kind of accessibility and connectivity but even more so – and they are really focussed on productivity so they want apps that perform and don't change dramatically. They don't necessarily want a one-stop app. ProUsers depend on being able to respond to the ever changing digitally charged landscape with flexible workflows.

Many successful Apps can be identified by one or two niche functions that they perform really well. They usually set a benchmark for how to get things done and then suddently find themselves with competitors. Then the lock-down begins and in my opinion they make a fatal mistake when trying to sweeten the deal by adding a lot of one-stop-shop bling. In my mind the difference between the "light" version and a ProUser app should be the opposite of what is offered now. Give the bling to the recUser and let the proUser have a clean run, no strings attached. I would pay for that.

Of course developers can't see the money in that. But as proUsers do we care? Any day now some of those niche developers that took the road less travelled are going to find their niche market. If your app does one thing really well and covers all the bases in terms of accessibility and connectivity (sharing between other apps) please do let me know. I'll add you to the list.


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