In 2010, Steve Jobs posited that only some enterprise applications would remain on desktops. “PCs are going to be like trucks,” he said. “They are still going to be around.” But only “one out of x people will need them.” Today, enterprise applications – the pickup trucks of Jobs’s analogy – have become a bit more like crossovers, and often serve as a means of funneling users from a scaled-down mobile environment to a full-fledged – and full-paying – experience on desktop.
Five years have borne out Jobs’s prediction to a greater or lesser extent, and, as Benedict Evans writes, mobile has become the locus around which all other platforms and devices orbit. I’ve often wondered what applications would remain on the desktop, which types would be mobile-only, and how certain programs would successfully straddle both platforms. If you had asked me five years ago, I would have posited that spreadsheet software and photo and video editing apps would stay on the desktop. I also would have been wrong. Microsoft Office is freely available on mobile, Adobe brought Photoshop and Lightroom to iOS years ago, and there are now a number of competitive photo and video-editing application for iPhone and Android. (Full disclosure: I occasionally write for Lightricks, the maker of Enlight, one of these photo-editing apps). There are still pockets of resistance to the shift – I don’t expect Wes Anderson to start editing his movies in iMovie on iOS, even if TV stations use iPhones – largely due to limitations of screen size, but not processing power.
As many have noted, enterprise is one of the next big frontiers of mobile (next to messaging and mobile payments). New hardware like the iPad Pro and Windows Surface Book are the c-suite answer to the workers’ demand for the convenience and beauty of consumer mobile products. Cross-pollination abounds (see the phenomenon that is Slack messenger, which appeals equally to businesses and families). And just the other day, Adobe announced that Lightroom would now be free on iOS, whereas it previously required a monthly subscription.
I think that this pricing change is indicative of a potential balance between enterprise applications that exist on both desktop and mobile. For some enterprise software, mobile will serve as a funnel to the full-fledged (and more lucrative) product on desktop. Microsoft proved the model with Office, and Lightroom will undoubtedly see greater adoption because of its eliminated price tag. If software makers provide mobile enterprise apps for free to workers, they can probably rely on the employees to demand equivalent software on workplace desktops, just as personal iPhones generated demand for workplace iPads.