There’s an App for That

"There's An App for That" is by Michael Miller.  "There's an App for That" first appeared in Michael Miller's technology column for  Valley Business FRONT in the June, 2012 issue.  Grateful thanks to Valley Business FRONT and Michael Miller for permission to publish the column on Handshake 2.0.

The first email was transmitted over the an experimental computer communications network in 1971.  Ten years later the “internet” consisted of about 200 host computers, half of which belonged the military.  In 1991, after hearing a report on the successes of the original ARPANET (as it was called then), Senator Al Gore authored the High Performance Communications Act, effectively establishing funding for the commercialization of the internet as we know it today.  (Yes, he sort of did create the internet…)

There are a LOT of apps for that...Whole economic empires have been built and destroyed since those early days, all based on the idea of breaking messages up into small pieces, scattering them out over a hundred electronic pathways and then putting them back together in order.  While many can easily remember a time before information and instantaneous communication were so ubiquitous, it’s getting harder to remember how we functioned back then. 

One example of how much the internet has changed the world is that the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica recently announced they would cease publication of the paper version of their trustworthy reference.  They have been replaced by the Google Search Engine and Wikipedia.  Sigh.

But wait, there’s more.

As commonplace as the home computer has become, in the middle of 2010 the sales of smart phones surpassed the sales of PCs at about the same time the tablet platform was introduced.  By the end of 2011 smart phones and tablets made up 60% of computer sales.

And if you own a smart phone or tablet, you can guess what’s coming next.  By the end of 2011 the amount of time Americans spent using mobile applications (apps) to access the internet exceeded the amount of time they used web browsers by a ratio of about 60/40.  This was especially true when we were shopping online.  In fact, tablets have become predominant shopping platforms to the extent that the relatively recently coined term “e-commerce” has been replaced by the newer “t-commerce”.  Heaven help the online store whose display is not scaled for a tablet.

The original internet, which was once handcuffed to land lines and slow transmission speeds, has matured along with cell phone technology so that it is no longer a thing to itself, but merely the road by which we travel.  It’s now just a channel used to deliver product (you and me) to the customer (advertisers). 

And increasingly, there’s an app for that.

Photo by Michael Miller.  More photos by Michael Miller are on Flickr.

Michael Miller is a technologist and senior licensing manager for Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, the technology transfer organization for Virginia Tech.  He provides business consulting and mentoring for technology startups through Kire Technology, and media assistance through Virginia Media Services.

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