If you ask digital directors at leading organizations what the next evolutionary step is for the Internet, they probably don't actually talk about the Web. Instead, they most likely talk about applications and devices. They also probably say that app developers are becoming worth their weight in gold.
That is certainly the case with Cameron Clayton, president of the digital group at The Weather Channel in Atlanta. The Weather Channel has the second most downloaded app on the iPad and the fifth most downloaded app on the iPhone. Clayton obviously knows the demand for mobile application development -- and developers.
"Looking out five years, I see increasing traffic on mobile devices, and for most companies, that probably means hiring more developers," Clayton told us. "But we're already not even close to having enough people to do the work." This demand is already making application developers among the highest-paid information technology professionals in many companies -- and deservedly so, according to Clayton.
He advises college students who want to be in high demand (and cash big paychecks) to concentrate on app development now. "If you want to earn $100,000 your first year out of school, become an applications developer for the Android or iOS. There is a real shortage of talent in the marketplace for people that can code for these devices."
Steve Nelson, technology director for the Oregon Virtual Schools, can confirm the growing demand for mobile devices and apps. Two years ago, the Oregon public school system became the largest test bed for Google Docs and Google Apps; the entire state adopted the Google Docs platform for digital education delivery.
"The Oregon Virtual Schools provide online learning applications, digital content, and digital courses," Nelson told us. Google provided its Google Docs and Google Apps technologies to all local school districts in the state, and it provided training for IT personnel and teachers. So far, 122 of 197 school districts have made the move to Google Docs. As part of this effort, students are given their own Gmail accounts, student portfolios on the cloud-based system, and mobile devices to access course work anywhere at any time.
As to the future of the Internet, it's not as much about the Net as it is about instant messaging and text messaging in mobile applications. I watch students and how they communicate. They don't want to talk on the phone so much anymore as much as they want to be able to text. Eventually, you'll see students taking tests on handheld devices.
This move to the 1:1 environment, as it is known in public education, is gaining popularity across the country. More school districts are embracing mobile devices as the preferred delivery device for the classroom. Even in districts that can't afford to purchase a lot of mobile devices for several classrooms, the new trend is to bring your own device.
Clearly, we are pumping a lot of new mobile consumers into the pipeline. More students will access and share their work via tablets and smartphones. Business travelers are increasingly leaving the laptop at home and opting for the tablet and smartphone. Put any number of people in a room for any length of time, and the odds are you'll find half of them on their Android or iPhone immediately, looking for entertainment, information, or companionship. Consumers are seeking apps to do virtually everything. We're almost there now.
Clayton and his friends recently had a friendly competition to see how long it would take to find a topic or function for which they couldn't find an app of any kind. "It took us two hours."
— David Weldon is an experienced editor, writer, and research analyst with more than 30 years of experience in the communications and research fields.