In a recent seminar with some Danish journalists (starting at about 5:00), I used the metaphor of the app as a cup of coffee, an ambassador of your business whose production encompasses a wide range of possible efforts. I also gave an extended technical definition of the word “app” (at around 14:45) that I found tidy enough to transcribe for you here.
An app is software that transforms its hardware to provide a complete and productized experience.
So let’s go into that.
An app is software, which is to say, an app is not a physical product. An app is the instructions that describe a physical product.
Software is not about ones and zeros. Software is about configurability. It’s about, you’ve already invested in something, and now you’re just going to find new uses for that thing, an application of that thing, or an “app,” if you will.
That software transforms, right? It transforms it hardware, that physical device.
When you have an iPad, and you’re using the iBooks app, you’re not using an app. You’re reading a book. You’re holding a book.
And if you want to switch over to GarageBand and start playing on the piano, you’ve turned the book into a piano. You have transformed that flat piece of glass.
This is something that people always wonder about, this dichotomy in, for example, Apple’s design. They say, “Why is it? The iPad, the iPhone, such a minimalist piece of art, but the software so colorful, and so rich, and so synthetic.”
And that’s the whole point. The hardware is meant to fade away and let the software take over what that device is to the user.
That’s what we mean when we say, software that transforms the hardware. But it’s not just that you’re transforming hardware. That’s a demo.
An app is a complete and productized experience. It is complete, which is to say, the app does not leave you hanging. The app is what you need to have the experience you’re meant to be having.
And it’s a product. It is something finite and measurable that you can buy, that you can transmit, that can be created by artisans and sold to customers.
Therefore an app is software that transforms its hardware to provide a complete and productized experience.