Why Sharing is Holding Back Application Development

I still love my iPhone.  I especially love the fact that I can read my iPhone reading list and browse the App Store for new applications that promise to make my life easier and more efficient.  The iPhone/App Store combination has been one of the biggest productivity advances I have ever experienced.  Heck, Apple may be taking over my tech life- I bought an AppleTV box today.  It’s another elegant device and, by far, the best device I have found for serving home movies.

But it could be better.

hatesharingEvery developer, every application and every blogger is obsessed with sharing, collaboration, yada, yada.  Today I read that the developers of my most useful app, Evernote, may be moving their focus away from their excellent iPhone app to focus on, you guessed it, sharing and collaboration.  Does anyone actually use the collaboration features crammed into all these apps for anything truly useful?  Most people I know are more interested in keeping people away from their data than putting it out there for the world to see.  Even if we wanted to collaborate with our partners, clients, etc., no corporate IT department in the world would let us.  And even if they did, there are enterprise platforms that permit collaboration while maintaining the big business-mandated level of security.

The iPhone has crossed over from the realm of the geek to the larger and much more profitable realm of the mainstream user.  I have numerous real world friends who can barely send an email, but who use and love their iPhones.  These people and thousands if not millions like them represent a gold mine for application developers.  And most of them couldn’t care less about the ability to share their documents with others.

The reason why the Apple Store was packed today, why I am morphing into an Apple lover after years of resistance, why so many of my real world friends have the Apple sticker in the windows of their cars, is simple.  This stuff works.  It’s easy to set up and use.  And most importantly, it makes tasks that lots and lots of people do every day more efficient and more fun.  Tasks like email, texting, information storage and retrieval, taking and emailing photos, finding a good nearby restaurant, playing Uno with your kids, etc.

The Evernote team, and just about every other app developer, would be better served and would more easily tap into that gold mine, if they forgot about sharing and focused on making their application more useful to non-geek users on an individual basis.  For example, while the Evernote iPhone app is intuitive and easy to use, the web application needs a lot of work.  That’s where the focus ought to be.

I think a lot of developers are electing to fish in a small pond, while the fish in the big pond swim around hungrily.

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