The role of the developer and the app: 4 trends and takeaways

Apple’s product announcement last week not only showcased the new devices that will be coming on stream, but also highlighted the software development space.

Last week Wednesday, 9 September, global tech firm, Apple, held its annual product announcement event at which it presented its new offerings and imminent releases. As a brand, Apple is known for aesthetically pleasing designs, and sophisticated and innovative products, many of which are are regarded the best in their class.

While the 2015 announcement did not disappoint on many fronts, industry experts and loyal Apple customers might have been hoping for more: a product that would change the trajectory of how we use and perceive technology, like had been done in the past with the iPhone, iPad and iTunes, to name a few. However, although no life-altering product was readily evident in Apple’s stable of new offerings, to varying degrees, the event highlighted the following four trends and takeaways in the software development space.

1.  Apps are still king

Early in the product announcement event, Apple Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook, stated “the future of TV is apps”. Whilst the statement was made in the context of highlighting the direction being taken with the Apple TV, throughout the event the potential impact of the new features and capabilities in the hardware was continually being tied back to software programmes and applications (apps) that could be developed.

Currently, it could be argued that there has not been many truly innovative or game-changing apps, and much of what is on the market are trying to do the same thing differently. Whilst there might be some truth to that observation, there is considerable scope for innovation that supports users to have a truly unique experience and help them to address needs they did not know they had – through the power of apps.

2.  Developers help to shape the possibilities

Although this point might appear, in part, to be a repetition of the previous one, the role of the software developer merits special consideration. Further, though it goes without saying that apps are created by teams of individuals, it is worth emphasising that it is those individuals’ creativity and perception of users’ needs that determine the types of software applications that get to market. Hence, their intellectual property and the extent to which they might be prepared to push the envelope, so to speak, should not be underestimated.

It is the developer teams that truly help to breathe life into the amalgam of metals, glass and plastics that comprise the devices upon which we, and by extension our societies, rely. Hence developers are truly the ones who help us see the possibilities of technology in our lives.

3.  Know your strengths and to collaborate with others on your weaknesses

In order to properly marry hardware and software – to the point where they not only complement each other, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – all contributing teams must be prepared to collaborate. During Apple’s product announcement event last week, that fact was most compelling when Microsoft was invited to discuss its Microsoft Office suite on the soon to be released iPad Pro. While the audience was initially confused when a Microsoft executive was invited to the stage, the speaker had to remind us all that Microsoft is the leader in office productivity tools, and so were best placed to speak about how Microsoft Office could be used on Apple’s latest iPad offering.

More telling, though it was not said, is that Apple knows what its strengths are – building amazing devices, the best in the business. However, there are others who are best in class in their niche segment, such as Microsoft. Though the time and resources could be expended to try create various products – just to keep development in-house – they may never surpass those produced by others, and ultimately may devalue your own flagship products. The trick is thus to focus on one’s strengths, but be prepared to collaborate with others to achieve mutually beneficial and desired goals.

4.  Versatility is vital

According to anticipated trends in customer behaviour, we have been moving to a space of ultra-customisation, where tech products aim to cater to the individual needs their users. There is increasing evidence of this in the concepts and designs that are being presented, which to varying degrees seek to anticipate users’ needs and to eliminate what might be perceived as unnecessary steps. In essence, tech devices, as supported by software apps and programmes, are trying to work how we think.

This perspective is changing the way that software products are being created. Currently, it might just be the big money firms that can afford to do this, but the extent to which smaller teams can begin to incorporate versatility into their offerings – so that they can be molded to user needs and behaviour – could be critical to their longer term viability and success.


Image credit:  Cristiano Betta (flickr)



  • So apple has finally brought the iphone to the television and called the future “apps”. Welcome to 2006 smart tvs and the nintendo wii. Yet again creating a 4th developer SDK to support. You can only ride the app pony for so long before everything looks like a iphone.

  • I honestly think that the Apple Pencil and new Apple TV + Siri will be far more gamechanging than others believe.
    Apple TV changes how we interact with TVs and how we can access data while watching shows (powered by apps yes) and it’s competing with game consoles. That brings a bunch of opportunities to game developers too!

    One thing I’m concerned about is how Apple tends to use app developers as their innovation lab-workers such that when an app becomes a key element of iPhone user experience, Apple either copies it (note taking/reminders/maps/photos/etc) or finds a corporate partner to sponsor (edging out competition)

    Developers bring a lot to the table but we’re just fodder for corporate interests. Apple could at least improve app discoverability

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