Disrupting the Business Application Market Place

This will likely be the year that Apple unveils a tablet-based PC. Nothing innovative in that – Microsoft has had Tablet XP and Vista for years and Scoble used to schill those as well.

My thoughts on the consumer aspect can be found here.

There is a bigger issue that developers need to pay attention to.

Since the tablet will use a similar form factor (as reported right now) as an iPhone/iPod Touch, the tablet will likely support existing iPhone apps. So unless “full screen tablet apps” cost more than regular apps, Apple will need to change the entire pricing model for existing tablet style applications. When someone built an application for the Windows XP Tablet, it would be priced just like an existing Windows based application, so about $200-300. MindManager, for example, cost $395. The iPhone version costs $7.99.

It will have to hit a lot of users to match the original price.

Apple revolutionized music pricing with iTunes and even though the tablet may change the print or publishing industry (which Apple already did back in 1986), how it affects regular apps could become critical.

There are some arguments that if the tablet is focused on the print industry, then the disruption has already happened with Amazon’s Kindle but the tablet isn’t supposed to be “just” an e-reader, if one at all.

Apple certainly doesn’t mind being disruptive – in fact, it’s built its reputation on it. There are also some benefits in creating different pricing models. Changing the tablet/publishing pricing model would effectively show that a tablet isn’t the same as a regular PC and therefore it should be priced differently. It might also force developers to focus on making application features specific to a physical form factor instead of the current “throw it all in” approach.

But the iPhone has also changed how people perceive apps. Why pay $200 for a GPS when you get the same results with Google on your iPhone? Why pay for traffic subscription services when you get it for free with the INRIX app?

How and when this perception moves into the business application world could cause some major disruption.

Should you build applications based on unique features that integrate with others? Or try to put it all in yourself? In my experience, most businesses want everything integrated and the best way to get that is usually from a single source. But that may change, especially with a device that isn’t just a phone but a possible business changer.

Has the Surface disrupted the industry yet? No, but Microsoft is reportedly working on more of a consumer or smaller version. But how would a “single-location” multi-touch PC compete against a portable version? I don’t think it can.

I also don’t buy the whole “Internet Net-book thing”. Internet applications have come a huge way in the past few years – and the fact that you can skin your regular web sites to look like iPhone apps is useful too, but I believe that the form factor of the tablet will also bring about at least one “killer” feature, one that is not easily reproducible on the web of today (tomorrow is another day). The current alpha version of Chromium isn’t there…yet.

I’m excited about what these changes will mean in 2010 and beyond but just as intrigued about what happens when these changes hit the business application development space.

As a developer, the next time you look at your application, instead of trying to make it run on as many platforms at once, try to envision a specialized version for a given form or input factor.

What would you change to make your application run on:

a) an iPhone or SmartPhone
b) a touch-based desktop computer
c) an audio-only implementation
d) a web-only version
e) a flat 10 screen multi-touch

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