Apps as disposable media

Famed 1990s’ bubble analyst Mary Meeker is out with her annual digital media forecast, and one of her jaw-dropping findings is that Apple users now download a collective 46 million apps each day. At first, reading this, you go “yay, apps!” And then you pause. “Crap. That’s a lot of apps. How can people use so many of those software-ish things?”

And that is the problem. Apps are no longer software; they have become commoditized, fly-by-night media. Apple has, by our estimates, 300 million current iTunes accounts with registered credit cards. If you divide 300 million users into the 16.8 billion apps downloaded each year, each Apple user grabs 56 apps annually — or about one per week per consumer.

No one uses 56 apps. Which means apps are disposable. Instead of a software portal (each app-maker’s dream) or new platform (you want your app to become the next Foursquare yes!), apps are now just a media slot — easily seen, quickly forgotten, like a TV commercial or banner ad flashing by in the night.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t build an app. Instead, it means you need to launch 100 of them. Apps get noticed — users love to download them after all — but their lifecycle is short. So go build an app. Then forget it, because next week you’ll need to build another.

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