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Race to the bot: are we losing the importance of the experience?

  • Posted on May 4, 2016

Bots

I’m not quite sure what happened, but I woke up last week and bots had taken over.  My technology feeds all had headlines about bots.  Even Time magazine weighed in.  I’m now sitting here waiting for my phone to ring for my dad to ask me to help him learn how to use some bot.  Kidding.

Microsoft headlined their developer conference, Build, by proclaiming to put conversations at the heart of computing.  Facebook then pronounced at their developed conference that it was opening up its messaging app so that any outside company can create a bot capable of interacting with people.

Maybe I missed something, but bots aren’t new.  I experienced my first bot with AOL Instant Messenger with SmarterChild, which was also available on Microsoft’s MSN Messenger.  Granted, today there is much cheaper and more powerful computing power and intelligence.  But the shift in use away from desktop computing to mobile stopped us from botting, and with the advent of the Apple iPhone, the focus became apps.  Golden Krishna mentions in his book, The Best Interface is No Interface, that nothing in the past few years has been more popular than App.

Image courtesy of The Best Interface is No Interface, Golden Krishna.

The issue today is that we are using less apps.  So what’s a company to do when they know that a user may no longer download their app?  The simple answer is that these bots are a way to make more money.  If Facebook has 900 million Facebook Messenger users, it’s much easier to build a bot within Messenger for consumers to buy your products.  The grand vision is really about enabling developers to build new ways for people to interact with applications.  And that’s the rub.  We are just at the beginning, but aren’t we just shifting “there’s an app for that” to “there’s a bot for that?”  Telegram is a bot service based in Berlin and has over 100 million users engaging with bots every day.  WeChat in China takes a different strategy with bots, where there is some automation, but in many instances, it’s a simplified interface to chat with a real human.

The key for businesses is that they still must determine which customer channels they are going to manage and ensure that the experience is great.  Bots have the potential to bring forward a simpler user interface.  TechCrunch writer Tony Aube has asked, “what if messaging could transform the way we interact with computers the same way it transformed the way we interact with each other?”  That is the essence of bots.  The bots, however, still need to be a delightful experience for the user.  We’re in the early days of the bot revolution.  Google most likely will launch a new messaging service shortly.  It’s less about the bots and more about the experience.  Just look at how our human experiences have changed from 2005.

I invite you to read more trends like this in the Avanade Tech Vision 2016 report.

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