Has innovation on iOS and Android come to an end?

…and how OOP might help (again) in taking the next step.

Imagine a mobile device like the iPad with the freedom of a SmallTalk environment. When buying apps, you would also get components with documented interfaces. There is an easy to use programming environment. It would be possible to compose a new app in no time by using the geo output of the maps application(s) and feed it to the train (or plain) search, searching for the shortest or cheapest way to travel. The amount of the ticket purchase is automatically fed into your accounting tool – into the correct account, of course. With current mobile systems this is not possible. They are more (iOS) or less (Android) closed systems narrowed down to consuming entertainment.

One could accept the fact that mobile devices are closed/regulated and do not provide much customization of even user-programmability. But for the last two years I did not see very much innovation on mobile applications and that’s a pity. Given that the first iPad came out in 2010 this is also surprising. If you were a company focussing development of applications on mobile devices, what would you do right now, in 2014? Develop another cheesy casual game with loads of In-App purchases to frustrate parents? A high-priced, stand-alone niche application for sailing, model train control or music creation? With Apple’s strict policy on what apps are allowed to do (and how they do it) there is little to expect.

Of course one can always develop applications for established brands and business models. Maybe there will be a new killer-app when NFC-based payment is ready for the market. But this is only commerical innovation, nothing that changes society, enables kids to learn easier in their very own way or boost productivity in work-life.

I expected a great deal of exciting apps. In 2010 and 2011 it looked promising. Star Walk – a glimpse of augmented reality when used outside. Korg’s Polysix and MS-20 – makes perfect sense. Or PocketCAS, an easy-to-use computer algebra system. But these are basically stand-alone applications (yeah I know AudioBus).

Customization and freedom of choice are still considered evil by Apple, but also by Google. While it doesn’t come as as a surprise anymore that Apple considers its customers basically as resources to generate constant revenue streams, “Don’t be evil” Google pushes in the same direction – given that top-of-the line devices do not have SD cards, are built by Samsung and upgrades are late and provided only for a short time.

The excitement on mobile devices is over and this is because of their limited features beyond consuming media. Open systems promise to be more dynamic, productive and powerful than a closed ecosystem where everything is dumbed down to the basic level. I do not say that Apple’s or Google’s mobile business model will fail anytime soon given that people buy new cheap clothes every year because there is “fashion”. But mobile computing is becoming more and more boring.