Microsoft and the Modern Application

I just read the Microsoft whitepaper on modern apps (you can find the whitepaper here).  I was particularly interested in doing so because BlueMetal has been investing a lot of time over the last several months more formally defining how we see the modern application.  Since the company’s inception, we have called ourselves “the modern application company” and we have organized ourselves around this concept.

The authors of the Microsoft whitepaper identified 4 key drivers that are pushing the evolution of applications:

  1. People – there are an enormous number of people connected to the Internet at this point in history.  The estimate is around 2.5 billion!
  2. Devices – Cisco estimates that there are 10 billion worldwide connected to the Internet.  This will no doubt grow significantly over the next decade as more areas of the world catch up with the United States.  For example, my family has least 30 devices that are connected to the Internet on any given day.
  3. Volume – this refers to the amount of data being generated today and the expected growth of that data over the next 10 years.
  4. Variety – not only is there more data, it is becoming less structured as new types are information are being tracked.  A good example of this new type of data is location data that is being provided by the billions of GPS enabled phones in the World today.

For the most part, I agree with these drivers.  My personal view is that the evolution of the modern app was greatly accelerated by the introduction of usable smartphones in the mid-2000’s.  The Apple iPhone being the best example of this type of device.   These devices allowed customers to do things that were previously only possible on their desktop or laptop computers such as browsing the World Wide Web from their phone.  I still remember how amazed I was the first time a friend of mine showed me how easily he could browse the web using his iPhone.

The authors went on to identify six characteristics that they feel a modern app should have:

  1. Multiple device support such as laptop, tablet and phone.
  2. Support for natural user interactions like touch and voice.
  3. App interoperability so data can be exchanged easily between apps.
  4. Rapid evolution because releasing an update every 2 or 3 years just won’t cut it.  Users expect their apps to evolve quite frequently.
  5. Access to large data sets for effective decision making.
  6. Cloud enabled for reliability and scale.

I think this is a good list but it does bring to mind a question that I have pondering since attending the Amazon re:Invent conference last November.   Specifically, is the modern app really just a mobile app?  If I look at the list above, it seems that most well designed mobile apps would meet most, if not all, of these criteria.   I probably have at least a dozen installed on my phone right now.  How do the more traditional enterprise apps fit into this picture?  For example, is it possible for anything built on an on premises SharePoint farm to be considered a “modern app”?  If the answer is yes, then how?  What are the characteristics that connect these two very different types of applications?

Architects at BlueMetal are working right now on answering these questions.  We feel very strongly that modern applications come in all shapes and sizes and there are certain characteristics that apply universally.  Over the next several months, we will be writing and speaking extensively about our concept of the modern application and how it can help our customers be more successful.  Stay tuned!