Opportunities at the Application Layer
I saw a headline earlier today that Bill Gates spent the day installing Windows 8.1. I too, in my free time, have spent the last couple days beginning to set up a new Windows 8.1 laptop. I am certainly known to be an advocate for Microsoft since I built much of my career on their products, but by no means would I consider myself a fanatic.
The installation of the operating system has gotten easier with every release of Windows since the early days. No matter if you are a Microsoft or Apple fan, I would argue that every release of the operating system for both platforms continues to get better with time. I certainly am not enjoying the wipe and reload process related to replacing a laptop, but it is certainly better than what 5 or 10 years ago. Back then, it was a balmy 8 to 10 hours to complete the job.
The operating system is probably the easiest part to get installed. Drivers and Windows updates come down extremely easily. My frustration with the entire process continues to be the application layer. It takes absolutely forever to install all the applications and utilities back on your computer after replacing the hardware or just completing a fresh start with a clean operating system.
It will take about an hour to get an operating system installed and patched, but it could easily take me 4 to 6 hours to download install and configure every application utility that I use. Each time I do this, I always swear that I am going to make an image of the hard drive before I start using it. The idea being that the very next time I need to do this, I can just drop an image on it and be done. Needless to say, I never do it for some strange reason. Maybe it is just my own morbid fascination with the process.
The market is beginning to challenge application providers to come together with easier and more portable application installation and preference retention methodologies using the cloud. It unquestionably should not be that hard to track all of your application settings and write those preferences to the cloud. Imagine the very next time you install the software and login, it will bring down all of your preferences to the device. Time Saver!!
Google with Chrome certainly has done this and Microsoft has made significant strides with the latest version of Office that are tied to a Microsoft account.
These are two examples where the software manufacturers got it right, but there are myriad of other applications and utilities out there that do not leverage this simple time-saving and customer beneficial enhancement. Mobility is driving innovation with applications that span all platforms and remember whom you are no matter what device you are using. This is the new frontier and opportunity for all application vendors to innovate and modernize their platforms to become more customer-focused.