The Appless Future of Software

By Tricina Elliker

It’s hard to imagine a world without apps. In June, Apple released a tongue-in-cheek ad that presented an appless world devolving into panic and a complete civilization meltdown. And while it might be a bit ham-fisted for the world’s leading smartphone brand to present such a melodramatic vision of humanity melting without their technology, the video still manages to make its point: We need apps. Or, at least, we’ve come to believe we do.

Just ten years ago few enterprises were using any form of Software-as-a-Service, Platform-as-a-service, or Infrastructure-as-a-Service, but now brands like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform dominate.

Gartner, Cisco, and other tech industry experts are all predicting SaaS’s 30% compound annual growth rate will continue through 2018. Meanwhile Gartner predicts the SaaS market will grow 20% in 2017, alone. The same report also estimated that “by 2019, more than 30 percent of the 100 largest vendors’ new software investments will have shifted from cloud-first to cloud-only.” SaaS has fundamentally changed the way we think about software.

SaaS rules the world

The truth is that apps aren’t always the most efficient way to deliver software solutions. In fact, by leaning so heavily on native apps, many brands have overlooked the power of the software they work with every day.

But, if you know where to look, it’s more and more obvious that the next innovation leaps will involve more appless solutions.

SaaS is growing in nearly every measurable way, and that’s not new. For the past few years, we’ve seen SaaS increasing in market share, revenue, investment, and enterprise adoption. Enthusiasm is only growing and creativity is only increasing as more and more SaaS solutions hit the market every day. Not only are there many SaaS brands out there, they’re coming up with more and more clever ways to build and use cloud-first software. There are no signs this part of the industry will slow down.

As this industry grows up, it’s inevitable that more and more developers will begin to find solutions that skip the native app altogether in order to bring a more seamless experience to users.


Tech beyond native apps

That said, native apps probably aren’t going to disappear completely. And they shouldn’t. Many native apps are better suited to be a downloaded product. But we’re finally seeing a widespread understanding that different kinds of software are better delivered in different ways, depending on the needs of the users.

The industry is already starting to test the edges of native apps and play with the idea of a cloud-only option. Last year Android unveiled Instant Apps, which is exactly what it sounds like: Native apps that can be streamed without download.

Users could try out certain apps before they download them. It’s an idea with the potential to offer a slight convenience to the app choosing process, but it doesn’t really solve a large problem. At best, it saves users a few thirty-second downloads for an app they decide not to keep after trying. It’s putting a lot of effort into a problem that isn’t bad enough to actually warrant it. Instant Apps has a great kernel of an idea, but there are so many other ways download-free software could solve actual issues. It’s as if Android saw the potential for what the technology could do and jumped on the chance to implement it.

And that’s too bad because Instant Apps was almost a good idea. But what it got right is that software serves users much better when it stays out of the way until it’s needed.

At Mirror, we spend a lot of time thinking about appless solutions using the customer’s mobile browser. And staying busy creating strategies for customer support, insurance, manufacturing, or just about any other complex industry, it’s critical that you get to the heart of the situation as quickly and as easily as possible. We understand something as simple as forcing a customer to download an additional support app can test your customer’s already strained patience.

And since finding a solution fast is key to making users happy, the best thing you can do is build tools that require as little work from your users as possible. Our CEO Robert Chea says:

“Customers don’t want to wait at the app store or search for your support app, they want you to help them with their claim right away using the tools they already have on hand.”

In the future, customers will still want what they want today: Faster, more streamlined software. There’s nothing easier than getting a text with a live link that leads you right to the software you need. That’s why the next evolution in SaaS solutions is a cloud-only, appless approach that’s instantly accessible without any hassle downloading or setting up software.

Mainstream consumer facing and B2B products are still catching up, but if you know where to look, the signs of evolution are everywhere.

Cloud-based software solutions offer a number of different ways to deliver digital products with minimal device storage. The technology is ready for more targeted, resourceful tools and users everywhere are ready to use those tools. They just need a few industry leaders to take the leap.

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