Pretty sure the future belongs to people who write apps, not people who just use apps.
These words are from a tweet by Alfred Thompson, an ex-colleague who used run the academic developer programmes for Microsoft in the US. He's worth following on Twitter for all things computer-science related.
It got me thinking about the fact that we're going through a cycle where apps have come down from being massive enterprise-wide systems to being things that individuals and small groups can write. There are three factors which are driving it:
Before I first started in the IT industry, I was a part-time developer. I wrote a business graphics software suite that worked with spreadsheets (before they could do charts themselves), and then sold it to a multinational. It got me started into an IT career. But when I have talked to students over the last twenty years, I've always emphasised that route would be really tricky to do.
But now, I think things are changing back. Suddenly, anybody with the right skills can develop an app and start to sell it or give it away – and any of those people could be the next app developer who's hit 100,000 downloads. That change is going to challenge the conventional software houses and educational publishers, and we're all going to have to get more agile.
The changes are going to be especially profound in education. With the consumerisation of IT happening, teachers are feeling that they can choose the apps, the systems and the devices that they want to use in the classroom – and if their IT teams don't give them what they want, then they're going to bring along their own device and use that. Even when IT think that isn't happening, I see it happening all the time – it started with phones and apps, then moved to tablets and apps, and I've even heard of teachers bringing in their own servers to be able to do what they need to teach their students!
So, if BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and consumerisation of apps, data and devices is ramping up, what should developers be doing?
I've written before about building Windows 8 education apps:
But how about the new idea of developing apps for Office and SharePoint? Given that Microsoft Office is installed on pretty much every teacher's computer in Australia, then there's a potentially huge market going to appear over the next six months, as teachers are upgraded to the latest release of Office – and discover the 'Apps for Office' button. The Office Store has only been live for short a while, and has a reasonably long list of apps from recognisable brands like Britannica, LinkedIn, Kodak, Avery and Hertz. But the small number of apps in the Office Store Education category (which is promoted on the Office Store home page) means that there's a greater opportunity to get discovered and recommended in the early days. And small apps that save time for teachers are likely to get widely shared and talked about (even simple apps like a 'class list creator' or a 'marksheet maker' will save teachers loads of time).
Even more helpfully, we've got two free 2-day events coming to Sydney and Melbourne, where experts in developing Office and SharePoint apps are coming over from the Seattle to share their experience. If you're a developer, and you've got an itch to get a foothold in the new Office apps market, then this is the best investment of two days you can make:
Make a date: Find out more, and register for the Office DevCamps