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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

10 Surprising Things about Mobile App Use and Genealogy and why they are not a surprise

The introduction of the App Gallery indicates more than just the number of programs becoming FamilySearch Certified. It also indicates some important messages about the present direction of the entire computer world and the direction technology as it applies to genealogy is moving. Here are 10 things that tell us a lot about genealogy, mobile apps and why they should not be a surprise to anyone.

No.1: The sales of mobile devices outnumber stationary, desktop devices.
The number of mobile devices sold in 2014 so far out paces traditional desk-type computers that there is no doubt where the market is going. According to, a online consulting firm, traditional PCs sold at the rate of 308,472,000 in 2014 while mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and similar mobile devices sold 2,432,927,000. In short, there were over 2.4 billion mobile devices sold. See "Gartner Says Worldwide Traditional PC, Tablet, Ultramobile and Mobile Phone Shipments to Grow 4.2 Percent in 2014."

No.2: More and more people are using their mobile devices exclusively for their computing.
My own observations indicate that tablets (including iPads, iPhones, and other portable devices) are becoming ubiquitous. This year at RootsTech 2015, many of the bloggers were using their iPad or tablets for their portable computer. This was particularly true among the younger, "lifestyle" bloggers that were there by invitation from FamilySearch. The were still a few of us diehard laptop folks, but even the presentations that I have seen lately were done with an iPad. 

No.3: The so-called "Apps" for mobile devices are daily growing more sophisticated.
In a recent presentation from Bruce Buzbee, the head of RootsMagic, the popular genealogy program, he indicated that many of the functions of the standalone program would be ported over to the mobile app. As the numbers quoted above clearly indicate, if the developers want to expand their market, they will have to move into selling mobile apps and making them more functional. FamilySearch is also indicating that significant changes will be made to their mobile apps in the future.

No. 4: The variety of programs available for mobile devices far outpaces the development of new desktop, local computer based programs.
I do get upgrades to the programs on my main computer, but most of the new programs coming out today are designed to work on mobile devices. It is rumored that Apple's coming operating system will essentially combine the present OS X system with Apple's iOS system into one system that runs the same on all devices. 

No. 5: We are right at the transition point where mobile computing become the norm.
I use my iPad for many things I used my desktop computer for just a few months or years ago. When I bought my present iPad, I looked at the possibility of adding a keyboard and decided that I still needed the connectivity of my laptop. I am in the process of rethinking that position again. 

No. 6: The selection of mobile apps shown on the App Gallery will increase dramatically over the next few months.
Many of the programs that are featured in the App Gallery were there before when they were listed as products. But the number of new web-based apps is clearly growing much faster than apps designed for Windows or Mac OS X. 

No. 7: Since most of the programs I now use are either web based or have a web component, moving to a mobile device is a natural transition.
As more and more programs become web-based, the need to have a separate copy of the program for each device diminishes. As long as I can access the Internet, I have access to all of my programs. There is no need to have a stationary computer to hold all of my programs. Now, this works as long as I remember to keep all of my working documents stored in web-accessible applications.

No. 8: Voice recognition software is becoming more and more useful.
Most of the mobile devices today integrate voice recognition features. Presently, I find the mobile devices don't work all that well. However, I am certain that the voice recognition software on these devices will improve dramatically over time, just as the cameras already have. Using a keyboard will not become the obstacle that it is now.

No. 9: The capabilities and storage capacity of mobile devices will eventually exceed those of the desktop computers we have today.
Eventually is an interesting word. Computers are changing rapidly enough that even those of us who are rather old will likely see a few more rounds of changes. Much of the research and development is directed at mobile devices and it is very likely that ways will be found to add interfaces that will let us add and store information more easily.

No. 10: The integration of web apps with mobile devices will expand their capabilities to match those of desktop computers.
I'm not looking to replace my desktop computer with a mobile device anytime in the future, but even today, that is entirely possible. The two things I need the most, a large screen, a good keyboard and massive storage is available for mobile devices now. As long as I can connect my mobile device to a large screen (which I can do now) and a keyboard (which I can also do) there are few barriers left to overcome before I move entirely to a mobile device.

What this means to genealogists is rather simple, They use computers. They use mobile devices. Eventually, all of the genealogy companies will realize this and the programs will be ported to the mobile devices. 

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