When computers were the size of rooms, being “into computers” took a great deal of dedication; you had to learn how all the components fit together, how to diagnose problems on your own, and how to replace parts. Computers were not something to be taken lightly. But now that computers are literally lightweight, carried around in watches and tablets, the barrier to entry is much, much lower.
In days past, to share an internet video you had to download it, burn it to a CD, physically hand it to a friend, and hope they had the right software to read the CD and play the video. Now, sending a video takes about three taps, so simple a child could do it.
Back in the day of the nineties and early 2000’s, using an Apple product meant you were special; you chose something outside the mainstream. This special community bonded at events like Macworld and online at places like TUAW. After the advent of the iPod and, more importantly, the iPhone, the Apple community became less and less of a community as tech became a lifestyle auxiliary, not a lifestyle itself. People were content to merely be consumers rather than consumer-brand ambassadors; the teenagers who craved an iPhone wanted one because of its cultural status, not for its computing power.
The business side of this shift away from the tech lifestyle is finally becoming clear. IDG’s Macworld | iWorld Expo shut down after its 2014 show, citing lack of interest. More community-focuses sites like TUAW and Joystiq were rolled into the broader “tech” site of Engadget at the end of January; the parent company AOL said they were “simplifying the portfolio of brands.”
On the consumer side, App Annie’s 2014 retrospective had a great deal of insight into the kind of apps that experienced the most growth. Importantly, some of the apps that had the greatest success in 2014 were messaging apps, travel and transportation apps (many of which landed new partnerships and investments), and mobile streaming apps (which both increased downloads and increased in the number of new streaming options from content creators like the NFL and MLB).
People are downloading apps not just to have them and pass time, but to access real-world tools. Consumers want to send messages through WhatsApp, get a Lyft to their Airbnb, then watch Netflix, and they want it all to happen seamlessly.
As tech moves away from a niche market and becomes integrated into every-day life for everyone—not just an elite few in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco—the technology we choose will have to be higher-quality, with better user experiences. As tech becomes subsumed by overall consumer lifestyles, rather than being its own lifestyle, we’ll all benefit, but first we have to adapt.
Sara Kewin is an account executive at Appency. She is not wondering where her hoverboard is, because that sounds unstable and scary.
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