When an industry matures, it becomes more uniform and less interesting.

I was looking at old computers and reminiscing the good old days of the PC revolution. They seem so filled with different possibilities and exciting developments.

Image from http://oldcomputers.net/

What up and coming industry now has that same sense of greenfield possibilities and variety? The combination of software, OS and hardware? The complex, but also in a nice way the naively single-minded and discovery-driven approach to product development.

Web development used to be like that when I first started. Those were exciting times.

But less so these days. Developing corporate websites, e-commerce sites, marketing and event sites – all undoubtedly glitzier and funkier than ever before – has lost that early sparkle for me. There are now established methodologies, platforms, tools, and fashion trends. The industry has matured to the point where variety is now (necessarily?) limited; the same reason why cars all generally look the same. Change is evolutionary rather than revolutionary; and sometimes (as in the case of visual fashion) gratuitous and shallow.

Mobile app development is relatively newer, as is the rise in popularity of tablets and their associated apps. These devices are still quite uniform unfortunately. Phones and tablets look and work more or less the same way. There is only a small handful of similar OSes. Their fundamental user interface is the good old icons and buttons made popular by the Macintosh back in the 80s. The icons are prettier of course, but they are still just icons.

Most current mobile apps appear to be toys and (marketing) ploys. They are primarily passive consumption-based. Many do little more than feed our demand for mindless, short-attention-span distractions. These simply don’t hold enough sustained interest for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not against new technology, or the creation of toys and ploys, websites and so forth. There is undoubtedly creativity, passion and expression involved. I have after all been involved in making many of these throughout most of my working life, and I do have apps on my phone. It’s just that creating websites and apps for their own sake now holds little intrinsic satisfaction for me. They have lost their deep meaningfulness.

So, where oh what is the next exciting emerging industry that combines creativity, technology and relevance to a greater, more meaningful good? What is the next thing to get genuinely excited about? Where is that opportunity to help flesh out a new industry or a new movement?

If the consumer market is primarily interested in toys and ploys, should I be looking at vertical markets instead? Developing Operations Support Systems (OSS) that encapsulates business processes inside software expert systems perhaps? I think of this as developing Operating Systems for organisations and industries. This crosses over to service design and development. And it provides ample opportunities to engage me at many levels – intellectual/logical in the need to understand complex systems, and emotive/creative in the understanding of human needs and the translation of complexity to contextual and accessible human understanding.

Years ago, I had thought the next phase of my work was in business innovation consultancy. But now I am not so sure. See my previous post. I could be wrong of course.

Perhaps if I moved away from developing websites and apps as ends in themselves, but rather as means to support a greater, more meaningful cause, that would make a difference? A web-based system to enable self-paced education in remote locations? A mobile app-based system to coordinate disaster response? Hmm...

Does your industry excite you? Did it when you first signed-up? Where would you go next if you were to go?