Monday, January 18, 2010

Mobile app developers striking it rich?

As some of you know, I'm team-teaching a mobile application development course this semester. We're focusing on the Android platform the first half of the semester and the iPhone platform in the second half.

With all the hype surrounding the iPhone and Android platforms and their app stores, a question that some might ask is, "Can I get rich developing mobile applications?"

If you're in it just for the money, you're chasing after disappointment. Just ask the writer of Ecclesiastes how much joy and satisfaction there is in great riches. However, I do think it's prudent to investigate if training to be a mobile application developer is worth the investment in time and money.

Apple recently reported that 3 billion apps had been downloaded from its App Store in less than 18 months, and according to Juniper, revenue for mobile applications will hit $24 billion by 2014. That smells like opportunity. However, Michael Mace (former Chief Competitive Officer and VP of Product Planning at Palm) believes mobile application developing is a dead end, primarily because there are so many platforms on which to develop and because web-based apps have a better future:
"I think Web applications are going to destroy most native app development for mobiles. Not because the Web is a better technology for mobile, but because it has a better business model."
I personally believe both native and web-based apps have their place, and there's no reason to give up on native mobile applications just yet.

So returning to the "rich" question, I've found a number of articles that address this topic. I just emailed these articles to my students, and I thought I'd share them here:
However, I wouldn't suggest quiting your job or dropping out of college to program iPhones just just yet:
  • Striking It Rich: Is There An App For That?
    "Not only have most sellers failed to turn a profit... even developers with high-ranking games and applications have made far less than commonly thought. Many come nowhere near recouping their investment at all."

  • One billion iPhone apps downloaded. But how many are worth it?
    "'You'll have better luck in Vegas,' says Howard Cohen, an independent software engineer and consultant who has one app out and another in the works. 'Most people do not make much money, or even [get] their costs back, when selling their apps for the iPhone.'"