Okay, So Now What?
I realize that many people are still trying to figure out what web 2.0 really is. But I think it is time to see what we have learned and move on to thinking about a world that is much more far reaching and powerful than next generation web services. We are about to see a whole new set of next generation software services that you might call software 2.0.
In contemporary parlance, Software 2.0 is a mash up of web 2.0 and software as a service with a strong understanding that we live in a world that converges PCs, the web, mobile phones, the TV and portable devices. </end of jargon>
From Web 2.0 we learned that web based software can provide an easy entry point for broad audiences and that the user can benefit from and will rapidly adopt easy to use services that plug and play with the rest of their web based life. Business models are still forming, but there are enough success stories to make it very clear that a new mindset has emerged. The walled garden has turned into an inter-networked ecosystem where nobody really “owns the customer”. At best we are all hoping for a piece of a time shared and fragmented consumer consciousness.
So what is coming next? What do consumers want? What are we capable of delivering to these new digital enabled consumers who have broadband, high powered PCs, digital cable and more digital devices in their life then the geekiest geek could have dreamed of a mere 10 years ago?
Software 2.0 is an interconnected ecosystem approach to digital media experiences that embraces the new world in which the mass consumer now lives. It is not just about the web or the PC. It is about providing experiences that make the most sense at just the right time in a dead easy “it just works” kind of way.
Software + Networked Services
The web has started and will continue to be the primary entry point for most new services. A web site is always a click away from an email or another website. This low barrier of entry is imperative for broad adoption. For most applications, PC based software that gets installed will be an important secondary step in the consumer lifecycle. Desktop software provides more robust functionality, offline functionality and deep integration with the OS, PC peripherals (printers, hard drives, DVD burners etc) and devices that may live on the home network. Users who install the software will be at a service adoption level that will provide more value to them and therefore they will be more likely to pay something for the service.
Thinking beyond the PC
PC software and web sites are just two potential logical faces of Software 2.0 based services. Mobile phones, portable devices and set top boxes are also becoming critical touch points for services. These CE centric appliances will have feature sets that are determined by the nature of the device. Mobile phones should have software that can take advantage of the networked nature of the phone, knowledge of your contacts, camera capabilities, and a screen that is always with you. TVs should be treated primarily as viewing environments that are well integrated into home entertainment systems and the daily social interactions of the family. And feature sets for portable devices like video iPods should really focus on portability and consumption with less focus on interactivity.
Let the Content Flow
A key characteristic of this brave new world is that content wants to be able to move freely. Keep in mind when pulling content into your service that it can originate anywhere and end up anywhere. We can now let people pull content from PCs, other web sites or mobile phones. It doesn’t matter where it comes from. Simply ask yourself “What does the consumer want?” That is what we need to provide.
Now that your service lives in multiple environments it is important to tailor the experience to the medium while making sure that the visual language and terminology is consistent and designed holistically. If someone is familiar with one area of your platform, then they should instantly recognize and be comfortable with other areas.
Just as your interface work should be reusable, so should underlying code. Build out your platform with reusable engines that can live in multiple places. Architecting for use of core components of the platform to be accessible from a web browser, a desktop application or other environments such as kiosks will help reduce the time of building out your ecosystem. This will also ensure a consistent user experience.
This world that we are entering will evolve new models of monetization. The strong web based components of these services will possess great feature sets that will fuel rapid viral adoption. The instant access nature of the web will ensure that new customers try it out. And if they find value they will come back. Then you can involve them more deeply in the platform. We will see new clever services that will enjoy extreme growth similar to sites like MySpace and YouTube. Due to this massive potential for page views and unique visitors, advertising will play an important role in the world of Software 2.0. The extension of the platform to the PC, mobile phone, devices and TV will also unlock service revenue opportunities as your customer relies on your connected service throughout their digital life. The connected and cross platform nature of the experience lends itself perfectly to a service model. This will emulate the “freemium” models of the past. But if there is true value provided; customers will be willing to pay
We are beginning and will continue to see several flavors of Software 2.0. It will apply to nearly everything: search, music, photos, video, data storage, communication, gaming, and business applications. It continues to be a very exciting time to be a consumer of these great services.