The next generation of successful services may not come up as individual apps.
In the past few months, Uber has quietly started embedding itself beyond its own app (you can now order an Uber from Foursquare, Google Maps, OpenTable, Hilton, and others). This approach is pointing to a potential future where there is no specific app involved in delivering a specific service, just a simple interaction that is driven by large amounts of cloud information.
This revolution is being driven by a world of SDKs that push interactions to the cloud, leading to a low friction interaction model that lets the user get in, do their task, and get out.
Look around you and you see a lot of different companies tackling hard problems that are solved without delivering a solution through an individual app.
x.ai handles your calendaring issues through a simple email. Dennis Mortensen, founder of the company, proudly points out that “there’s no app for it.” After a few months, I’ve stopped consciously thinking of Amy, the AI assistant powering the service, as worth mentioning as an AI when I book meetings and few people have asked me about my assistant. The service has just embedded itself into the fabric of my scheduling life.
Similarly, Magic brings you anything over SMS. The first time you use the service, it asks you for a credit card. After that, you can order just about any legal thing over it with only a quick text message. In a sign the idea is good, Rocket Internet execs have decided to copy the service, launch GoButler as a competitor.
Each of those companies has moved into the post-app world, where they are leveraging the wider context to embed themselves into existing workflows and that is increasingly where the future of our world is heading. As the number of apps continues to increase and the cost of acquiring users is getting higher and higher, the new roadmap to successfully delivering a solution is to tie one’s offering in apps people are already using.
Let’s return to the Uber example for a second. Consider how the company has moved from being a service that was delivered through an app, to one that integrated with some extra features (eg. Spotify), to now being delivered through other apps. It is possible to see a future where the Uber app no longer is necessary and where users get all of Uber’s offering as buttons embedded into other apps. In doing so, the company not only ensures that it develops a whole ecosystems that is now somewhat dependent on it but also gives you a glimpse at a future where new apps may become less relevant.