In 2020…there will be a widespread belief that the World Wide Web is less important and useful than in the past and apps are the dominant factor in people’s lives.
—PewResearch Internet Project
Even the most reliable sources get it wrong some of the time. Pew Research Center is world-renowned for accurately using data to project what is happening in the present and what will likely occur in the future. This time, however, they missed the mark. The use of apps globally is plummeting. It is no longer the most effective method for retrieving information and entertainment. That title is now being handed over to cloud-based services.
The History Of Apps
Mobile applications began to take over the world in 2008. This application software became so popular that the shortened version of its name became the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year in 2010.
When they were first introduced to the public, most apps were designed to be used for information retrieval and productivity, such as stock market apps, calendar apps, and email apps. The convenience and usability of them, though, quickly caught on in other industries. Within a few years of their introduction, there were apps for medical services, games, magazines, and just about every big brand or company.
The impact of apps on the world has been enormous. Every year, from 2008 through 2016, the number of app downloads and money generated from the downloads grew. In 2012, $18 billion dollars were generated in the U.S. In 2013, that number went up to $26 billion. However, in 2017 this is going to change. It will be the first year in nearly a decade that app downloads have dipped back down. And they are continuing to do so at a faster and faster pace.
The Downfall Of Apps
Just as apps had a quick rise to fame, they have an even faster collapse. The vast majority of smartphone users do not download a single app on a monthly basis. The top 15 app publishers, such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have seen their app downloads in the U.S. drop by about a fifth. And globally, app downloads among these top app publishers has slowed significantly to 3%.
There are several reasons that this is happening. First and foremost, most people have all of the apps that they want. Most smartphone users spend about 42% of their app-using time on a single app. They do not need anymore simply because they would not use them—the more apps that are downloaded, the more cluttered and confusing a phone or tablet screen becomes. Secondly, the app stores are becoming too overcrowded. It is difficult to navigate through them to find apps that work well and accomplish the desired task, especially without too many annoying advertisements or glitches.
The App Outlook In Asia
Asia seems to be following global trends when it comes to app usage. Flurry did a study of over 2 billion devices and found some startling results. Many categories of apps are simply stagnating or declining in growth. Gaming apps fell by 4%, magazines and news fell by 5%, music, media and entertainment grew by a measly 1%, and overall app usage and time spent in apps are failing to grow in tandem, which has been a sign of strength in the past.
With the exception of India, Asia has seen a decrease in app-use across the board. This is a surprising fact given that smartphone internet traffic is rising quickly in the region. Since 2014, 500 million new internet users were enabled through smartphones—the majority coming from Asian countries. And while smartphones are becoming more and more popular, the use of tablets and desktop computers are decreasing throughout the region–another fact that makes the decline of app-use befuddling.
The Way Forward
But if apps are disappearing, what will take their place? Well, apps are not exactly going to disappear. The apps the people have on their phones and tablets, they use and they use them a lot. However, what will likely occur is that apps, in and of themselves will disappear. There will not be as many apps dedicated to one single service or capability. Instead, apps will serve as a front-end to a bigger, more comprehensive cloud-based service. The list of companies moving towards this model is a long one, including the likes of Spotify and Netflix. The apps that individuals download will provide a service. Many of them will be subscription based—so to download the app is free, but there is a recurring payment that must be made to use the service.
In Asia specifically, the use of cloud services is on the rise. This coupled with the fact that Asia has the best cloud infrastructure in the world—with Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Malaysia among the readiest for cloud-based growth—is setting Asia up to lead the rest of the world in an embrace and proliferation of cloud-based services.
This transition is already being embraced by many of the cloud leaders in Asia. The hope is that by breaking the ground in this field, they will be able to generate much of their GDP from it. Malaysia has a goal of digital contributions making up a fifth of their GDP by 2020, with most experts in the field saying that they are very much on track to accomplish, if not exceed the goal.
Many in these expectant communities are already calling such cloud services the ‘internet of applications’. In the next few years, it is expected that a quarter of applications will be administered as a service. It is because of this transition from apps to cloud services, though, that many countries are beginning to see the need for increased protection—there is a bigger risk when it comes to users’ data and private information. This is an especially sensitive risk when it comes to financial, medical, and governmental cloud-based services. Due to that, throughout countries in Asia, such as Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, committees are being formed to develop risk guidelines and safety procedures to ensure privacy and protection for both consumers and service providers.
Globally, cloud providers see the writing on the wall. They understand that whoever becomes the top provider will be the big winner for decades to come. It is for this reason that Google, with their Google Cloud offering, and Amazon, with their Amazon Web Services offering are upping their game. They are offering clients better value, from flexible pricing models to increased functionality. So far Google has invested $30 billion in improving their cloud offering, and the others are not far off from this number.
With cloud providers and governments building up the infrastructure and protection, and consumers demanding an alternative to traditional mobile applications, it is becoming more and more clear that around the world, and especially in Asia, cloud-based services will be the next big technology in the coming decade. This transformation is just one of the major technology changes that are sweeping across Asia, as well as the rest of the world.