With the convergence of devices, bots, things and people, organisations will need to master two dimensions of mobility.
That’s the view of research analyst firm, Gartner, which claims that CIOs and IT leaders will need to excel at mainstream mobility and to prepare for the post-app era.
“The future of mobile will provide ubiquitous services delivered anywhere, by any person or thing, to any person or thing,” Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst, David Willis, said.
“While users are constantly looking for new and compelling app experiences, the importance of apps in delivering services will diminish and the emergence of virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and bots will replace some of the functions performed by apps today.
“Alternative approaches to interaction and service delivery will arise, and code will move from traditional mobile devices and apps to the cloud.”
Mobile becomes “business as usual"
Willis said the mobile landscape has “changed dramatically” during the past few years, citing that “mobile is no longer a novel technology, but business as usual, for most organisations”.
In 2016, Gartner forecasts the shipment of 2.37 billion devices (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones), and that 293 million wearables will be sold in the same year.
Fast forward to 2017 and the analyst firm estimates that 2.38 billion devices will be shipped and 342 million wearables will be sold.
“The proliferation of mobile devices means that phones, tablets, laptops and wearables are now omnipresent within the business environment, reinventing the way people interact and work,” Willis added.
For Willis, today's tech users are “smart and savvy”, demanding better features and experiences.
“The traditional forms of bring your own (that is, devices and applications) will continue to grow, making bring your own device and bring your own application the norm for the majority of organisations,” Willis explained.
“Moreover, the arrival of wearables and bring your own "thing" (such as smart kettles, smart power sockets or smart light bulbs) in the workplace will introduce new interaction techniques and new platforms, diluting the need for specific mobile app experiences.”
Much of the innovation in the mobile space isn't taking place inside the smartphones themselves, but in the things that communicate with them.
Consequently, Gartner predicts that by 2018, 25 per cent of new mobile apps will talk to Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
As explained by Willis, most IoT devices that talk to smartphones do so via an app or the browser.
“Through 2018, the app will be the preferred mechanism, because it provides a better experience and allows more sophisticated interactions and data analysis, with low-level networking and background processing,” he said.
However, the current dominance of apps is challenged by several trends that, together, Gartner labels the "post-app era".
“As new technologies grow in importance as a way to control and interact with things, app interfaces will fade,” Willis added.
Prepare for the post-app era today
Willis said new ways to interact with things will deliver pervasive services, and emerging technologies - such as artificial intelligence, natural-language processing and bots integrated into messaging apps,open new opportunities to interact with users seamlessly.
A number of global players are enabling businesses and consumers to "chat" with users on their messaging platform evolving APIs and services so that developers can create their own bots.
Willis said this concept allows users to chat with organisations to get information, answer questions and transact through messaging or VPAs.
“This means that instead of going into a system and filling out complicated forms with checkboxes, users can ask a bot a question, and it will answer or negotiate on our behalf, based on rules and knowledge in the system,” Willis added.
“It will then move to those systems that allow interactions with customers - from marketing to sales. Apps are not going away and code isn't vanishing.
“The post-app era means that there will be more data and code in the cloud and less on the device, thanks to the continuous improvement of cellular network performance.”
For Willis, the post-app era will be an evolving process through 2020 and beyond.
“It has, however, already begun,” he added. “Organisations should prepare for it by being agile and tactical, planning for new skills, assessing the new opportunities created by the post-app era, and developing a digital business strategy that integrates many different technologies.”