WIRED recently ran a thinkpiece on Apps being cannibalized by the Operating System. I think the thesis is justifiable. I mean, just ask Spotify or Flipboard how they felt about the WWDC2015 keynote. Software has finished eating the world and is now eating itself.
The article talks about a shift from Apps to Services. The dirty secret that no one downloads apps is out. Installing apps comes with an investment hurdle. Although apps make a platform strong (see WindowsPhone), maybe apps aren’t the future.
Instead of retailing visually attractive “things,” developers might sell (or sell subscriptions to) context-aware “powers” that imbue a mobile device with extra capabilities, like Mario eating a mushroom.
From a Web Design perspective, we’ve seen this before. Just as “web apps” are often perceived as second class, “native apps” will soon feel second class when compared to “embedded apps” at the Operating System level. Icons will fade away and be replaced by service API hooks that feed the OS.
Seems like a lot of Paul Boag’s “The Decline of the Webpage” fits here, but applied to an Native App context.
There’s a third option not spoken. As mentioned before, I like how the mobile Chrome team is experimenting with Web App install banners; if you visit a site enough, it will politely ask to join your homescreen for a more native experience. I think/hope that is the future.