Software updates are like constant gift giving

2010 March 31
tags:
by Steven R Jones

Am I being petty or is receiving gifts from others one of the best parts of life?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could receive gifts more frequently than just on birthdays, invented holidays, or during periodic religious-based events? Imagine getting gifts every week, or even every day! That’s how I’m starting to feel thanks to all those tireless iPhone application elves.

AppStore Updates AvailableI have been working in the software development field for more than 20 years and have primarily played the role of gift giver. That is, I work continuously with a team of programmers to produce increasingly better versions of a product and ultimately release those improvements to the customer. Of course this includes fixing flaws or bugs in the software just like when you take your car in for a recall (what’s the software equivalent of a sticky accelerator?). But it also means adding new features, time-saving shortcuts, and other conveniences that weren’t there the last time you used the application. Over the years, it has become an increasingly common practice for providers to include minor and even major software upgrades for free, so much so that new releases hardly feel like a real gift. But I think that’s not necessarily the case, at least in the mobile application world where applications are smaller and more personal.

In a purely digital form, software products are relatively unique in how they can be delivered and re-delivered over time with relative ease. With the Internet and wireless connectivity, distributing new and improved software has become rather trivial.  Because of this, software applications are one of the few classes of products that have the potential to improve and become more useful for the customer over time. Not like steak knives, a Prius, or a ham sandwich.

By now, most of us are used to getting software updates beamed down to our computers, game consoles, even network-connected Blu-ray players. If you have a newer smartphone, no doubt you’ve dabbled in your provider’s “app store” and downloaded some applications straight to the device. But these days, it is not unreasonable to expect for those applications and, in turn, the underlying hardware product to improve incrementally over time as newer versions become available. On my iPhone, I now receive the “updates available” notification at least 3 times a week. And each time, not unlike a child, I eagerly race right down to the App Store, grab my gleaming presents from under the tree, and start ripping off the wrapping paper of each improved application.

I’m not always impressed with the “gift” but as is so often the case, it is the thought that counts. I really admire application developers who continually strive to improve their products.

We get hooked on gift giving early on in life, mostly around major holidays (real or born out of marketing departments). Most gifts are a joy to receive and often both parties are richer for the experience. And when it comes to mobile software applications at least, I often feel like that they are the gifts that keep on giving. I hope we don’t get spoiled by this and that we stop every now and then to thank all the folks who make this possible.

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