Let me start of by apologizing to both Apple enthusiasts, and those on the other end of the spectrum who expected this to be an discussion about the much debated iPad. It is not. While passions run high about iPad’s place in today’s market one thing is clear. Whether its time is now later is a moot point. What it does is shine yet another spotlight on the changing face of technology. The iPad builds on momentum created by the iPhone that is dramatically effecting how we consume technology.
So what does all this have to do with licensing. The new workforce is comprised of a generation that cannot live within the strict boundaries traditionally defined by IT. They also see the unprecedented access afforded by applications like iTunes as something expected, rather than their predecessors, that still struggle with the piracy implications. They expect their software to be consumed in the manner most convenient to them, be it the home laptop, iPhone or iPad. Ask yourself how often you’ve wanted to access your favorite on-line service and just assumed that there must be “an app for that”. I have iPhone apps for most of the web applications for which I used to use my laptop (hurry up United, you’re lagging).
For some time now there has been talk about the convergence between work and personal technology. Traditionally there has been a strict demarkation of the two. Users had their home computers and work ones. Probably no technology has impacted how these two converge more than the iPhone. Arguably Facebook and Twitter have had similar effects. The lines are now officially starting to blur and will continue to do so. Many companies do not support the iPhone yet it is not uncommon to see people carrying around two phones. Preventing today’s generation from whipping out their iPhone and Tweeting on impulse would amount to cutting off the oxygen supply to their brain.
What all this means is that the way software publishers price, package and deliver software is going to continue change significantly. And even more importantly the notion of an entitlement is going to become ever more important. There used to be a question of balancing portability with piracy concerns. Any restriction on portability is almost a moot point. We not only want our software, we want it on our iPhone, our iPad, our laptops, and whatever new medium is about to descend upon us. The internet has gone from being a useful invention to being completely integrated into the fabric of society.
And while all this seems to be more focused on consumer software, I believe that this will very much impact the business world as well. There will be increased consolidation in the marketplace. Managed Service Providers will continue to gain favor. Just like we get a mobile phone at a nominal price today, or even for free, for purchasing a telecom contract, so too will software be provided when purchasing a service bundle.
The question now becomes who is entitled to what? Can I prove that I am entitled to a particular software update or content package? And for software publishers that look to profit in this highly consumerized technology environment managing these entitlements effectively will be critical to success.