Open APIs and Cloud services certainly make developing applications easier, but it seems there’s a side-effect that is only now being recognized. Now that anyone can build an application, a whole new wave of creativity is ready to explode into the marketplace. From the obvious to the esoteric, applications of all kinds are now within reach.
Returning from London this week gave me an opportunity to reflect on how the shift to APIs in the cloud is affecting the way applications are developed and deployed. Since looking back at the presentations I saw at Enterprise Connect, listening to customers, and this week’s visit to TADHack London, it’s finally coming in to focus.
The APIs and resources in the cloud are not just “making it easy,” they are unleashing a whole new wave of creativity that was previously out of reach for the average developer. As Alan Quayle like to call it: “It democratizes applications.”
First, a little look back. Way back.
When the 3GPP first came up with the IMS architecture in 1999, the vision was that the new modular architecture would allow service providers to create and rapidly deploy new services in the core of their networks. Not any applications, just the applications they wanted. Those applications may not be the applications consumers want, but the applications that had a good ROI and could generate revenue for the service provider. In hind-site, this rigid structure seems very un-democratic, with the carrier’s politburo deciding what applications you get and when you get them.
Meanwhile, the Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) technology of the late 1990’s was filling a gap, allowing developers (including myself) to create some pretty innovative applications. But to do so, you needed to know how to program in C or C++, understand device drivers, Unix, TDM, PBXs and a host of other technologies that often took up a whole server room. It created a whole wave of PC-PBXs, contact centers, fax servers, unified messaging and more that make businesses more productive today. But the skill set and investment needed to create applications was still beyond what many individual developers could tackle.
Today, thanks to the broad selection of Communications APIs and cloud-based services, developers have an almost limitless set of resources at their disposal. Not from a lab or research center, from their laptops…in a Starbucks.
Unleashing creativity? Yes, it’s really happening and here a few examples that really struck me during this last weekend’s TADHack in London:
Sabastian Schumann single-handedly reinvented the call screening application by combining the screening process with your contact database look-up (a whitelist), a crowd-sourced database of telemarketers (blacklist), and Slack to eliminate those pesky telemarketing calls. The integration of a crowd-sourced blacklist was the real innovation – why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?
Another two gentlemen, Roderick Hodgson and Alex Francois (who met the first time at the event), came up with an application that would help busy people keep track of the notes from conference calls, using IBM’s Watson to do keyword spotting, and sending a summary of the call to your SMS number. By merging the resources of telephony with the speech recognition and keyword spotting of Watson, they created something that (to my knowledge) never existed before.
I could go on and on, but take a few minutes and watch the pitches from the event, remembering that these people started working on these projects at 10 AM the day before.
No business reviews, plan or record reviews, no product gate reviews, or approvals by the politburo. Pure innovation unleashed.