Am I getting a glimpse of the future from my own mother? A few months ago she asked me to get her a new laptop to replace her 2010-era netbook. (She went rogue on that one. I lobbied hard for something…anything…else). Surprisingly enough, she got five or so years out of it, but in reality she hasn’t used it for around three years. Why did she stop? She got an iPhone.
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It didn’t take long for her to realize that the iPhone provided her a better experience than the $250 netbook could provide. It had games, it had internet and email, and it did it all much faster than the bargain-basement netbook could ever do. She even wound up getting an iPad down the road. The only thing she wound up using the netbook for was to type up the odd form letter or look at pictures from her digital camera.
When she asked me to find her a new laptop, my brain went into “I told you so!” mode, but I refrained and simply said “What’s your budget?” to which she replied “cheap.”
So I found a $400 laptop that wasn’t the worst thing I’d ever seen. I showed it to her, but she rejected it due to the fact that it didn’t have a backlit keyboard. That was a deal breaker, but when I said that pushes her into the $600-700 range, she said “Can you find it for less?” (Parents, am I right?!)
I finally convinced her to get one of those Dell touchscreen laptops that can flip back on itself. It runs Windows 10, has a relatively modern i5 processor and 8GB of memory. That’s basically my bare minimum for anyone that wants to use a computer for more than 3 years. I was happy with it, and since it ran Windows 10 I asked her to see if she could set it up on her own when she received it. It was part laziness, and part experiment–was Windows 10 easy enough for even my mother to use?
She agreed (I didn’t tell her about the laziness part), and after she got signed in with her Microsoft account, I got a call asking where she goes to get Amazon, eBay, and Pinterest. I responded, rather flippantly, “umm, the Internet,” to which she said, “How do I get to that?”
At first I just thought that this was a case of a person in their early 60’s that, while no slouch with computers, was unsure of herself with the new OS. Instead, it turned out that she’d been iOS-ified. She’d been living for the past three years in the world of apps. The browser only came up when she clicked on a link in an email, but when it came down to any of the things she did on a routine basis, well, there was an app for that. When I look for something, Safari is the first thing that comes up. For her it’s different. She looks for the apps–Amazon, Kohl’s, Pinterest, Hobby Lobby (she’s very crafty), eBay…even Google. The App Store is her window to the services of the world, and the idea of pulling up a browser and typing in a URL had been expunged from her computing workflow.
After some re-training, I have her squared away on the Windows Store and Edge. We have some bookmarks created for sites that she visits, and the Windows Store is basically for games (because holy crap are the Amazon and eBay apps way slower than their websites). But I’m left with a question: Is this approach of the browser taking a back seat to app stores and apps something that the younger generation also will follow? I don’t think that it has anything to do with my mother being a baby boomer, and it seems that certain companies, Amazon comes to mind, are basically forcing you to use their app from a mobile device instead of the browser (ever tried to search Amazon from a browser with iOS? The keyboard always disappears).
Interestingly, during the “spec’ing out a laptop” phase, I suggested that she just buy a keyboard for her iPad. Having used a friend’s, she immediately said “No, I just do NOT like that.”
So I’m anxious to find out how people from younger generations than myself use their devices. Is YouTube an app to them? What about Wikipedia? Is the browser just “that thing you go to when you can’t find an app,” or is it more important than that? The browser is my primary interface to the world. I use a ton of apps, too, but I can’t imagine my life without the browser.
If the overall trend is shifting this way that could be a huge boost to enterprise app stores, providing those tradional applications in a way that users are more accustomed to. It could also mean we have a hellish BYOD future to look forward to, since all apps are not in all public app stores (and even if they are, they’re not all the same).