We run our lives on apps. We turn to them for entertainment. We consult them in matters of finance, time management, cooking, shopping. In many ways they control our lives. They take what at one time might have required an evening at the desktop computer into the scope of anytime and anywhere. Down time spent waiting in line need no longer exist. We can always turn to our apps to fill every time void in our lives and find ultimate productivity.

The History of Apps

Apps as we know them are quite a new and changing concept. But back in 1983, an “unknown” named Steve Jobs,  co-founder of Apple, had a vision of what the future would hold. He told a room full of conference attendees that soon people would be able to download applications (apps) right over the phone. People would use these apps for everything, starting collections not unlike a record collection. This was perhaps our first glimpse of app stores, which wouldn’t be seen for over 20 years from that announcement.

As personal computers became more common throughout the late 80’s and 90’s, the application’s predecessor, called a program, began to be developed for these personal computers. They were mostly on disks that you would buy at the store. Great investment was needed in physical production and distribution, which limited production to only the best-financed companies and big players. Only “sure things” dominated the market. No room for the little guys as the investment was just too great. Businesses began replacing everything from typewriters to drafting tables to inner-office mail with programs and program-aided productivity soared.

As the Internet became faster in the 2000’s, downloading programs from the Internet became a more viable option, making it easier for new companies to enter the marketplace and start solving business problems with technology. This brought prices down and made it more affordable for businesses to expand their usage of these applications. But the biggest problem still remained. We were tied to our desktop computers. And laptop computers with their short battery lives and palm pilots with their limited abilities and awkward handling weren’t much in the way of solutions.

Then the world became mobile. In 2007, the first iPhone was released with apps built in. The demand for new and more versatile apps led to the opening of the App Store in 2008. Then 3rd party app development was introduced. This gave rise to millions of new apps from independent developers, all competing for a piece of our app-budgets. Each offered to make our lives easier, more efficient, more fulfilling or more fun.

Android and Blackberry jumped into the game with their own devices and applications and the market continued to expand as people were creating applications for everything. Even specialized companies like FitBit found ways to make us wonder how we ever lived without these technologies. Applications began to become fixtures in our personal lives and once again businesses took notice and started looking at how this technology could make their lives easier, their employees more productive and their businesses more profitable. Businesses quickly realized the benefits of mobile business apps. They allowed them to “be everywhere at once”. With syncing technologies they could complete tasks, review documents, update statuses, pay bills and upload information all on the go.

Soon the Internet of Things, the idea that we can interact with everyday objects through technological connectivity, evolved, creating a new eco-system in which distance was no object, as we could communicate with our cars, home security, phones and even our coffee makers if we downloaded the right app.

Business again integrated the technologies into the way they worked: monitoring cash resisters, security cameras, building access, appliances all from their phones.

As our devices with their limited — and highly-coveted — gigs of hard drive space became the terribly insufficient to meet our demands, cloud-based storage became regularly incorporated into apps. Again freeing individuals and businesses from the limitations of their technology and making app-based business processes more of an option — if not a necessity.

How Apps are Shaping Business Today

Today Apps drive business by providing real-time solutions that make businesses and their leadership more agile, flexible and able to respond to changing marketplaces. Business today cannot stay relevant and ready to meet customer demand without employing mobile app technology. Apps are re-shaping how business is done behind the scenes and how business communicates with customers and employees.

The Customers

Geo-targeted push notifications and individualized offers based upon data-gathering allow them to reach customer in the most optimal place at the most optimal time, when and where they might actually make a purchase. Gone are the days of prime time commercials that customers forget the next day. Customers are reminded to buy your product while on their device where they can easily do it.  Sales conversion, cross-promotion, free and plentiful social media marketing are driven by business apps. Those businesses who are not taking advantage of apps in this way are finding their sales stagnate over time and very soon apps will become the only viable method to reach your target audience and turn them into customers.

The Employees

Applications across devices mean that employees can work on projects, submit updates and communicate about challenges and triumphs from anywhere. Business leaders can reach employees on the clock, when they need to. The employer-employee relationship has never been so flexible and mutually beneficial as it can be with mobile technology. This morale booster means more productive employees and an increased ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest.

The Management/Owners

Management and Owners, who work long hours, are finding new freedom as they can increasingly monitor, communicate and produce anything just as they would do on their desktop from a much more portable device: from home, driveway, airport or the grocery store.

What is the Future of Apps for Business?

It is hard for us to imagine what the future might hold. Just 5 years ago could we have predicted that apps would become such an essential tool for business? What we do know is that apps are not a fad. And while they may evolve and improve, they are not going way. Businesses will find new ways to reach customers, work with employees and get the job done with apps. Apps will improve our ability to target customers individually and impact their everyday decisions. The brands that people use will become even more integrated into their lives thanks to apps and our customers sharing-behavior will soon consume the entirety of our marketing strategy. We will accomplish this with apps for business today and the business of the future.