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2011: The Year of the App

2011: The Year of the App

Rosalea Barker
December 19, 2011

::A is for the lost Art of Alphabetizing::

Recently, I had occasion to ask someone to help me put a whole lot of papers in order alphabetically by the writer’s last name, and then by first name when the last names were the same. It would save me a lot of time when the writers came by to claim their work if I didn’t have to sort through a disorderly pile. Much to my surprise, the task proved to be a difficult one for the young adult who was helping me.

Perhaps I’d given vague instructions, or perhaps the task was too boring to be bothered much about, but the jumbled result did set me to wondering how I had learned to alphabetize and if the opportunities to learn that art still exist. I’m pretty sure I didn’t learn it in school or at home but from two other places: the library and the telephone book.

Now that everything is online (including books and telephone directories), and intelligent search engines do the finding for us even if we misspell our query, will we soon live in a world where paperwork is just a hopeless jumble and nobody can find anything? Which mightn’t bother you at all until that old paper file—not yet digitized and indexed--concerning a past medical condition cannot be found and a serious error is made in your treatment.

Would someone please write a fun game app that teaches players not just that B comes after A in the alphabet, but that Aquino does not come before Allsop?

::P is for PlayBook::

At their November 2010 developer conference in San Francisco, Research In Motion—makers of the BlackBerry smartphone—first said there would be no announcement about the tablet device they were developing to compete with Apple’s iPad, then later the same day announced that it would be available in April, 2011. By the time of the 2011 developer conference, they were giving a PlayBook away to everyone who registered, perhaps to encourage them to develop more apps for it in order to lift sales of BlackBerry devices and RIM’s share price (which has tanked).

As Yul Brynner, King of Siam, would say, it is “a puzzlement” to me why the quantity of apps that are available for a particular smartphone or tablet operating system drives the sales of those devices. I assume that in the long run, app development will narrow down to just a few third-party companies, the same way that software for PCs did, but in the meantime it’s the wild, wild west out there in appalaunchia. A strange sort of wild, wild west where the ability to fire scattershot is valued above the ability to shoot straight and hit the target, no matter how small it might be.

I have a deep-seated mistrust of apps, largely for security reasons, but have to admit that I’m beginning to warm to them. How dull my three-bus morning commute was until I downloaded Nobex to my smartphone and can now listen to an Austin, TX, radio station called Bob that boasts it plays everything—and actually does! And how much more comfy it is to look at TitanTV’s most excellent program guide, which I’ve used for years, on my PlayBook instead of having to get out of my armchair to go to my desk and look at it on my computer.

::P is for Pathetic::

2011 was nothing if not the year of pathetic confrontations between powerful entities—confrontations that left the powerless frustrated and annoyed. Which doesn’t have much to do with apps, except in the case of the Apple and Samsung intellectual property rights circus that left consumers in many countries without a choice of tablet devices. It seems that, no matter how many billions it makes or how much market dominance it has or how much untapped market there is out there, Apple is hell-bent on obstructing its rivals.

Yes, I know that it’s all about the return to shareholders, but both companies have way more consumers than they do shareholders, and they might like to put consumers’ needs ahead of profit occasionally. Now that the judge in the German court where Apple first charged Samsung with patent infringement, and Samsung countered “ditto”, has said he isn’t convinced by either company’s allegations, perhaps they’ll learn to play nicely.

Just like the chappies and chappesses in Congress, right? There has been increased discussion this year about how the US version of a two-party system—in which Reps and Senators are free to vote however they wish, regardless of party affiliation—has morphed into a more parliamentary model. In this new model, members vote along party lines on just about everything—especially if it’s something the President has proposed.

Nowadays, you even hear pundits speak about the “opposition party”, which is defined in terms of the President’s party affiliation. So, even though the Republicans have a majority in the House, they are the Opposition. I wonder how many years it will take for the next logical step to occur: an election system that allows for minor parties to get a seat at the table of democracy.



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