Life after Steve: It's the apps, stupid

What will we see in the post-Jobs era? Apps that fulfill our every need -- and record everything we do

So I've been thinking, something I try to do every month or two just to keep the synapses from clogging, about the future of technology in the post-Jobs era. Because make no mistake, this entire industry has been basking in the glow coming from Cupertino for the last decade. And now it's over.

Not that I think Apple will stop making great products -- it won't. It's just that the products won't matter as much. We've had the miraculous life-changing shift to tablets, and we're done for the foreseeable future.

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(On that note, having used a tablet steadily for the past three months -- no, not an iPad, a 10-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab -- I can tell you that tablets are definitely not PC killers. They're handy for all kinds of situations where a PC is awkward -- reading my email or messing around on Facebook in bed, for example -- but that's about it. I never thought I'd pine for a QWERTY keyboard, but I do, which is why I'm writing this post on my netbook.)

Life is now divided into the Before Steve and After Steve epochs. In the After Steve era, hardware doesn't matter. Smaller, cheaper, faster, whatever -- been there, done that. The lackluster response to the insanely overhyped iPhone 4S debut proved it. The most impressive part of that whole demo was the Siri Voice Assistant that can understand plain English commands. The era of slobbering over every great new phone has unofficially ended. Software is the new king.

Actually, not even software, as we usually think of it. Apps -- little chunks of code that do one thing really well across any device you happen to encounter, whether you're carrying it in your pocket or they're embedded in the walls around you -- are the new black. And we've barely scratched the surface.

Apps to remind you to take your pills. Apps that tell you when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Biomedical apps that are implanted in your hypothalamus and can grow or shrink body parts as desired. Apps that will let you banish negative thoughts and choreograph your dreams.

Apps that can bend light around your body, so you can don that cloak of invisibility or appear three inches taller. Apps that let you hop on the Neutrino Express so that you can wind back time a few seconds and take back that stupid thing you just said, freeing you up to say even more stupid things in the future.

As Carl Sagan might have said, billions and billions of apps, one to fill every niche in our otherwise empty lives. As we use each app, they will naturally record what we did, when we did it, and where. Even while sleeping, our apps will be working, creating a constantly updated electronic record of our lives.

From a privacy perspective, this notion is kind of horrifying. But like any disruptive change, after a few weeks or months we'll stop thinking about it and just accept it. Like credit cards: at one time an innovative way to manage money we didn't quite have yet, then a convenience, and now a virtual requirement. Apps will become like that.

Then it won't be what the apps are recording that matters; when the apps stop recording is when other people will start to care. They will become our electronic alibis. You may find yourself having to explain the gap in your app record to prove where you were, what you were doing, and with whom -- or face the consequences.

OK, I've had my fun. What do you think life will be like After Steve? Post your predictions below or email me:

This article, "Life after Steve: It's the apps, stupid," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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