Some excerpts from my forthcoming new edition, relevant to current debates:
Computing has always been a service, even before automated electronic computers were invented.
Notice that this activity, even in 1910, still was a service – perishable, intangible, and inseparable. The calculations could not be “stored” on a shelf in anticipation of that manager’s appearance, and the “computers” needed to be present to perform and scribe their calculations, the service required. If they sat idle, that value would be irretrievably lost.
Today, one can purchase software from major vendors, or even off the shelf at a retailer. But one does not receive any services from such a purchase until that software is installed and “running” in a manner to render the desired services. To repeat as an axiom:
Computing has always been a service.
[Turning to the] etymology of the term “application.”
In 1947, at the first conference on computers, sponsored by the Association for Computing Machinery, the following paper was presented:
“Census Applications of High-Speed Computing Machines (James McPherson)”
Notice the phrasing and use of the term “application.” The computing “machine” is being applied to the business goal of enabling the U.S. Census.
From such usage came the concept of “application” – meaning, “let’s apply this technology to our problem.” And as established above, computing is only and inherently a service; it is never a good.
Implicit in the term “application” therefore is direct interaction between a sponsor seeking computing services, and a provider of those services. Anyone seeking computing services must specify their needs in a fashion that can be translated to a clear, logical, and computable procedure or algorithm. And someone offering those services must be able to facilitate this process.
From this basic reality has stemmed the entire application lifecycle, disciplines such as requirements management, systems analysis and design, and practices such as systems integration and IT service management.
Not all “IT Services” are “Applications,” but all “Applications” are “IT Services.”
The term “application” has picked up some baggage along the way, which we will discuss more in the next chapter. But this book rejects the view that “applications” are inevitably subordinate to, or components of, “IT Services.” The application is the service. Applications do not equate to code or software, which are only instrumental in applying computing to a problem. Applications are the employment of computers in the service of business goals. Not all “IT Services” are “Applications,” but all “Applications” are “IT Services.”