I am having a flashback to the latter decades of the 20th century when manufacturing was all about making things smaller. There was a running joke about sending things to Japan to get shrunk but I don’t recall it. I do remember a meme that said if car production had followed a curve anything like the one in Moore’s Law that you could get a Rolls Royce for a buck and change though.
We’ve seen the phenomenal shrinkage of most hardware devices in the last decades. Computer rooms now fit in your pocket or even on a wrist and headphones rest inside the ear as the economy careens toward zero marginal cost for most things. It hasn’t all been good or bad it just is—I am not in the camp that complains that our jobs are decamping for lower cost places. News flash, that’s what always happens in a capitalist system as innovations commoditize. The question isn’t how do we protect old jobs, that’s a fool’s errand. The trick is to invent new ones.
A friend has a book coming out soon for which he asked me to write a few pages on this phenomenon. I chose color TV. You might scratch your head at that because today everybody knows that TV comes from the Far East. But in the 1990s there was a great commotion about the Japanese stealing our TV industry just because they’d invested in glassblowing in a big way that enabled them to make big picture tubes that were reliable and affordable.
Back then some business people might have gotten up in the morning fretting about how to make picture tubes but that was then. When the TV business went west we did what we always do in such situations. We invented other things like the World Wide Web, mobile devices, and we scaled up venture capital so that it is practically equal to one of the top 20 economies on the planet. We also invented LCDs and plasma and there are some Nobel Prizes in the bottom of some American closets for those efforts but they’re mostly made in the Far East today too. What are we up to? Among other things we’re curing cancer, experimenting with nanotechnology, building the IoT, and lots of other cool stuff, thank you very much.
This long-winded intro is intended to position Salesforce’s latest announcement—App Cloud Mobile—in context. Essentially they’ve taken all of the functionality that started life as a desktop developer’s platform and shrunk it down to your palm. The offering includes a no-code environment with Salesforce’s Lightning capabilities as well as the clicks and code development capabilities of Force and Heroku.
It’s all in keeping with some broad trends to inspire 100 million new people to learn app development, to better position information in the heart of business decisions, and to change the paradigm of wasteful business practices to one that respects information and derives better margins from smarter practices rather than inflation.
There’s a lot to the announcement and I direct you to the company’s video for more information here. And a Gartner report here. All this is great news for businesses of all kinds and their customers but we can’t overlook the commoditizing influence tools like this provide. As I’ve alluded to before, we are already deep into the commoditization of IT and tools like this simply accelerate the trend. Just as in TV days we need to identify higher value add for basic technologies. I suspect for IT and app development we will immediately need to develop the intellectual tools not to develop apps faster but to identify the right apps to build.
Introductions like App Cloud Mobile bring these realities into sharp focus. It’s up to us to figure out how to optimize what we have and it’s quite a bit.