Upgrade or die: The second life of useless apps

Before you download yet another app, ask yourself two questions: Do you really need it? And do you have any idea how much of a pain it will be?

upgrade maintain speed road sign

I’ve reached an age where medical care of any kind becomes an adventure. In younger years, doctors were primarily engines of routine function: Go in for a checkup, get told you’re healthy as a horse, and go back to doing all the things you’ll regret about 20 years down the line -- barring your average youthful indiscretions like broken bones or bleeding head wounds.

But past a certain age, the medical profession exerts more influence over your life, probably because you’ve become more fragile … or more solvent. Now when you go to the doctor, odds are you'll lose a large mole or an extremity you didn't know existed. Dentists too become interior decorators, taking overpriced pictures of your mouth, clucking in disapproval, then ripping out everything they can get a clamp on and replacing it with highly expensive and hopefully more functional replicas. Guess what? The technology industry often works the same way.

Take Internet Explorer. Its ActiveX add-ons have slowly decayed, giving rise to umpteen security vulnerabilities, slower performance, and global screams of frustration and murder-suicide pacts as tiny circles spin on the screen for a half-minute too long. Come this summer, those doodads will be ripped out and replaced with add-ons based on HTML5 and JavaScript. It's exactly like the tooth my dentist pulled early yesterday, which is now being reconstructed in a lab from a material less vulnerable to age, sugar, alcohol, and chronic neglect, but more expensive than stem-cell-infused conflict diamonds.

Then again, maybe that’s not such a good analogy since ActiveX isn’t being ripped out of Internet Explorer so much as Internet Explorer is being put to sleep like an overly arthritic Rover at the vet, and the add-ons simply won’t be included with the replacement puppy. Let’s hope that’s not how the medical industry decides to emulate the technology industry.

Truly useless technology

Maybe medicine can follow the example of the chat app. Chat apps are like male nipples: You don’t really need any, but you usually have two and some unlucky bastards have three. Nipples are single-function items, exactly like chat apps. They’re also easy to make and would be easy to sell as elective plastic surgery if only the medical industry could figure out how to get men excited about nipples that aren’t attached to their lust object.

While that puzzler’s stumped physicians and parents of teenage boys worldwide, the technology industry has simply upped the chat app game to include e-shopping. “When in doubt add online shopping” is probably in the top 10 secret rules of Silicon Valley software venture capitalists -- akin to “when in doubt add Bluetooth” for hardware venture capitalists.

The Zuck recently demonstrated the sheer brilliance of this concept when he broke his Messenger function into a whole other platform. Sure, it meant a separate download for something you already had, but now it’s suitable for online shopping and all kinds of fantastic stuff! Obviously impressed by the Zuck’s vision, Tango announced it’ll start in-chat shopping with Alibaba and Walmart -- apparently modeled after China’s WeChat move with e-tailer JD. Three’s a trend, so we can expect the rest of the chat app-verse to follow suit faster than Lindsay Lohan skips out on community service, regardless of the fact that shopping in a chat app is as practical as holding a singles mixer during an Amber Alert support group.

No time for naysayers

Some of us might view the trend as ridiculous and recklessly damaging to the attention span of future generations -- but who cares about those people? They’re probably the same annoying folk who preach about the long-term health damage from cigarettes and sugar or keep harping that the Internet of things is going to be a security nightmare. Forget about them. Engineers and doctors can’t be held back by those weenies. Common sense is so overrated.

If doctors could do for male nipples what engineers and biz dev monkeys are doing for chat apps, they’d go like hotcakes. Cringely’s genius thought of the week: Doctors partnering with the technology industry to build Bluetooth-enabled nipples that offer online shopping. Granted, it may be a little unsanitary, but you know it's gonna be gold.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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