Compound apps will understand you better than stand-alone appsApple’s App Store may have more than 600,000 apps right now, but the future of mobile computing is not about stand-alone applications. Certainly, new apps will be invented, but the real innovation will be in the creation of “compound” apps that transform how we live and work.

Compound mobile applications of the future will connect together not just data, but information and services from multiple industries. Information will no longer reside in silos, such as info from the airline or the restaurant industries, but will be connected together with stored information about your personal preferences to give you a seamless experience.

Since people have their phones or their tablets with them all the time, their location your be aligned with the information about yourself that you make public, such as in social media. Analytics and big data will bring together information about people similar to you, so that if you are traveling through an airport with a 20-minute walk to a gate, your phone will help you choose where to eat dinner based upon personal preferences.

In other words, you’ll be able to do things you’ve never done before. Mobile computing will be the connection point to things that have traditionally been unrelated.

The most interesting apps of the future will be the ones that blur the lines between industries and improve our quality of life and the quality of how work gets accomplished.

In a related development, mobile currency will be a new way of purchasing things on our smartphones and tablets.

For example, if you check into a flight using the app on your phone right now, and the flight is delayed, the airline may hand you a slip of paper that entitles you to get a snack in the airport. Instead, why not add a monetary credit to your phone to spend for that meal? Or, since I travel a lot, if I have several thousand miles accrued in airline miles, why do I have to pay for a meal on the plane using my credit card? Why can’t I spend 500 miles of my 50,000 accrued on a meal?

When I want to buy things, I want to be able to use my phone to pay for them using the most appropriate currency.

As we look at the future roadmap for mobile computing, we can divide businesses into two categories.

One group is extending current business applications and processes. If they have an online web site for commerce, a business will want a mobile app to do the same. They are adding a channel, becoming multichannel, to what they do now. Businesses have to extend their reach in this way to stay competitive.

The other group has started adopting a “mobile first” position. So of all the possible ways of reaching their employees or customers, companies are now switching to an approach that says, “when I do the next application, the first place I’m going to use it is for mobile devices.” Or if they decide to change an infrastructure, it must support mobile computing first.

As someone who has spent much of his career promoting open technology in computing, I see the need for movement away from proprietary computing to open standards in mobile computing.

When ideas start to be incorporated into things that many people use, or the technology becomes mainstream, there must be standards.

For example, IBM bought Worklight earlier this year because it’s a company that based its work on open standards and open technology. Having open standards and open technology is the best way to successfully deal with all the different mobile devices with different mobile operating systems and lots of apps that need to access the same data.

Along those lines of thinking, we very much feel that HTML5 is critical to the success of mobile, versus strictly proprietary technology. We support a hybrid approach of using HTML5 to extend native apps. The hybrid approach allows a developer to optimize the technology that will be used. In fact, we feel that the hybrid is usually the very best approach to developing applications. It allows reuse of existing web skills and builds new, standards-based skills for use in development of multiple apps.

These are just some of the trends I see occurring over the next few years in mobile computing. One thing is for sure, mobile is changing the way our world operates.

Bob Sutor is vice president of mobile enterprise and the WebSphere Foundation for IBM. He’s also a widely read blogger and is a frequent speaker around the world on open source, Linux, open standards, virtual worlds, and cloud computing. 

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