Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Discovering the Chiaroscuro of Mobile

by Rachel Hinman

Hampus Jakobsson presented a fantastic talk at this year’s MEX conference about the “wild west” gold rush mentality surrounding mobile app stores. Hampus warned most players in the mobile space are merely mimicking Apple’s model, leaving many user experience challenges that hinder the app store experience unaddressed. This talk inspired a host of great discussions about many of the fundamental user experience issues that plague app stores and ways to improve the process through design.

However, Hampus’ talk brought focus to a question that’s been lingering on my mind for a while now. As the once innovative app store strategy quickly becomes “hygiene” for many in mobile, I can’t help but wonder if all this fast follower behavior is an incremental step to something much bigger.

What if the real problem with app stores doesn’t stem from Apple’s ridiculous application approval process, scalability problems, or mediocre social recommendation functionality? What if the real problem with app stores is what they are selling?

What if the real problem is the notion of applications on mobile phones?

Applications as a means for both expressing and manipulating information in a mobile context is an interaction model we’ve borrowed wholesale from the PC. While application stores have solved many issues – ease in application development, downloading applications to a device, payment – it’s easy to forget the application model was originally developed for a fundamentally different context. A static context....

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