In a fully linked network environment, additional nodes add an exponential^ increase in the number of possible connections. With this value driver, dedicated device or web apps which can connect will improve in value to end users as more link together. It's not hard to imagine massive high value networks (but isolated/distinct) for device applications.
Fax machines are a classic network value example highlighted by Kevin Kelly in New Rules for a New Economy. The first two machines were very expensive and of limited utility. As nodes were added and became cheaper the value added to the fax network made them irresistible to new businesses and homes corresponding with a plummeting price per machine.
The Network of Applications
The value proposition to new users is shifting drastically when we consider the set of all web and device apps as a new super network. As users and customers, we have come to expect the majority of device applications to be connected to the web whenever it may add value, and often times when it's not obvious. Novel geo-location representations of events for specific activities has proven to be a form of human global connection or belonging. Revolutionary and even magical devices and web apps can interact with each other providing enhanced functionality (accessing remote interfaces or data). My hypothesis is that the distinction between dedicated device and web applications will vanish due to market forces and technological changes. The forces that will eventually cause device and web apps to merge:
- ubiquity: as the number of device applications grows, they exceed the ability for single stores to showcase and channel them to end users
- interoperability: as market forces (features/benefits) drive device apps to exchange information with web apps the boundaries that now separate them will diminish
- technology: the response time of web apps on local hosts will be nearly instant as web app code accesses local native resources, and network improvements aid data flow
Not all networks merge over time. When a new service is offered to users of an existing network (in a limited way) vertical or niche networks can spin off of the broader service. They may even continue to exchange data into and out of the network, but the value of the community has shifted from the larger origin network and is better served by a different set of priorities. A great recent example is Stocktwits creating an independent network from Twitter. Even after creating a new external network to better serve their customers, they continue to exchange information with Twitter via APIs.
* odd choice of vocabulary inspired by the 3 amigos
^ combinatorics, 2 nodes = 1connection, 3 nodes = 3 single connections & 3 dual broadcast connections, etc