Hey what’s up with all these apps? What is an app anyway? Well from its root, app comes from application which is a software program that runs within the Operating System of a computer. The OS is also software, but it’s like the main overseer of all the other software and the hardware as well and it’s what makes all the parts work together. If you are running a new Windows PC, your OS is probably Windows 7 and for older ones it may be XP (or it could be the not so popular Vista from 2007 or 2008). An example of an application might be Microsoft Word which you run as an application on top of your Windows OS.
Applications became apps when we started talking about software mostly for mobile devices, like smartphones and then subsequently for tablets which are kind of between smart phones and laptops. Why do we need different apps for these devices; why not just run the old tried and true applications that we’ve been using on our desktops and laptops?
It comes down to size, really, and the way things look on a screen as you make them smaller and smaller. Turns out you can’t just make them proportionate; the text and other details disappear at some level of reduction. A Website looks very different on a 21-inch monitor than it does on a typically sized phone or even on a decent sized tablet like an iPad. Apps are often created to make reduced size images make sense in their smaller context. Sometimes content must be rearranged and perhaps expanded across another screen using a sub-menu for example.
Let me also interject that mobile Apps are not universally applicable. Just because an app works on your iPhone does not mean it will work on a Blackberry. Smartphone’s have operating systems like computers do. Apple has the iOS for its iPhone and iPad, Google has Android and then there’s Blackberry, Symbian and Windows Phone. App makers that cater to the different platforms usually offer the apps, even the free ones, in a central store.
Sometimes by specially configuring an APP, you can make a Website focus narrowly on just the subject matter that you want to see. Since we’re getting into the heart of football season, let me use an example from ESPN’s Sports Scores Website. I can go to their site and navigate through their menu links to find scores and stats and standings for just about any sport, anywhere.
On my office computer screen I can navigate through all the myriad options at my leisure on a 21 inch screen, but I need something quite different if I want to check the score of my favorite SEC team’s game while I’m at the grocery score. That’s where the ESPN Sports App comes in. Turns out it’ s a free app and it works on most of the smartphone platforms.
By configuring it to my tastes, I can dial up the latest on that team and also my favorite ACC and Big Ten teams in just a few seconds. With a few quick clicks, I can also see the league standings and who we’re playing next week. By the way, a similar app is available for iPad and other tablets and yes it does look a little different on a 7 or 9- or 10-inch screen.