Reflecting back on my second year at the TMT Predictions schools challenge Grand Final, I was once again amazed by the innovative ideas that the students from our Deloitte Access Schools came up with in response to the challenges we set them about our Tech, Media and Telco Predictions.
One of the things that stood out for me this year compared to last year was the emphasis on mobile applications – in fact all three of the finalists' proposals were app based. This reflects a prominent theme of the new-age start-up business model - software over hardware. Faster go-to-market times, easier and sleeker prototypes, scalability – it's no surprise that apps are taking over the modern business world. To conceptualise this shift, it is important to take into account that all new pieces of hardware are equally reliant on software upgrades in order to perform their maximum potential – whereas a new app will work on previous devices, as well as the most current. This is all exacerbated by the streamlining of platforms – now that smartphone penetration in the western world has topped 60% there is a very large centralised market around the Apple and Android stores.
I imagine that this will not be news to many of you. In fact, you may indeed be thinking that we are approaching a saturation in the app market and it is easy to see why – out of a total of 1.5 million apps to choose from on Apple’s App store, the average iPhone user accesses a grand total of 26.7 apps per month. Faced with such competition, App makers are constantly trying to find that edge – often, clearly, without success. The thing, then, that interested me most was that Maria Fidelis School’s winning idea was actually a combination between software and ‘hardware’. The proposal was an educational App, preinstalled on second hand smartphones, that would link up to a sturdy cardboard-based projector for use in third world country classrooms. For me, this was a great instance of social enterprise combining software and re-purposed modern hardware with easily accessible materials to form a product set. It was well presented with a prototype as well as a brief business plan and budget. The judges were very keen on the overall ‘package’, and they were worthy winners in anyone's book.
There has been some discussion in 2016 about the decline of hardware and market saturation – but looking into some of the bright ideas of the next generation, this event has proved that there is still life yet in the bricks-and-mortar of the tech world.