The very first apps were launched in 1993: IBM’s Simon included a touchscreen pad instead of buttons, and although its utility was highly restricted – it could send and receive email and faxes (!) it didn’t have internet access. It did however come preloaded with a number of built in apps (e.g. calendar, calculator address book) but it was also inconveniently large as well as expensive. Things have come a long way in the interim.
Blackberry’s mobile email, released in 2002 was the first great leap forward in terms of practical hand-held devices and from this point on things began to really take off. It was July 2008 that Apple launched the app store along with the iPhone 3G; Google introduced Android Market just three months later and the app market has been on an upward curve ever since. For example, it was 2010 that the world’s largest betting community introduced the Betfair betting app to the waiting world.
By that time history had recorded more than a billion downloads from the Apple App Store (that was April 2009), and it was just in time to coincide with the launch of the game changing iPad (April 2010). The Android market passed its own billion download landmark in August 2010. Milestones have been coming and going ever since. January 2011 saw Apple record its ten billionth download and for the first time app usage surpassed mobile web usage.
Angry Birds alone has now passed a billion downloads, and it is predicted that by 2016 app downloads across the board will have passed the 44 billion mark. In the space of just a few short years the rise and rise of the humble app has been nothing short of astronomical.
Inevitably the question concerns what will the next evolution in consumer technology bring with it? Will we be downloading individual apps or will the cloud do away with the need for individual downloads altogether? The people who can answer that question are likely to be the ones who will enjoy the enormous returns that the likes of Google and Apple have managed to generate over the past decade.
IBM and Simon may, to various degrees, have slipped out of the picture, but they stand as useful reminders that what looks cutting edge, futuristic and barely imaginable one day can be quickly superseded.