Are Mobile App Developers Going to Get Very Rich, Very Fast?

30 09 2009

Two separate statistics got the industry talking last week. Yankee claimed that US smartphone users would download nearly seven billion mobile apps a year by 2013, generating $4.2 billion revenue. UK analysts Wireless Expertise then added that global revenues from mobile apps would leap from $4.66 billion in 2009 to $16.6 billion also by 2013.

Unsurprisingly both figures caught my attention but left me wondering what this meant for the average mobile app developer.  Will we see a new generation of mobile application millionaires or will events go in a subtly different direction?

There is tremendous growth for sure, with the Android market accumulating over 10,000 applications in its first year and the Apple AppStore growing larger every day. However, talking about a “gold rush” has negative as well as positive connotations.  Indeed Yankee Director Carl Howes, adds an important caveat: “every mobile developer could be the next Bill Gates for smartphones, but only if they bet on the platforms with the right reach and fit for their applications.”

Right platform. Right reach. These are two of the biggest challenges facing the mobile developer community and have the potential to make or break an application.

So what’s the solution? Ryan Stewart, Adobe platform evangelist, recently told ZDNet Asia that developers have begun to “come back to Flash”.  They hope to recreate the “code once, run anywhere” experience. However, as a former developer, I know this was never exactly true with screen sizes, input methods and even the mobile network requiring a myriad of variants to be created to ensure the best end user experience.

In short there’s no golden panacea. Developers have got to carefully select both the platform and distribution method that suits their app. This applies to whether it’s a Java game on GetJar or a business app on Ondeego.  Getting the combination correct is a prerequisite for increasing the likelihood of success.

But, a little bit of luck plus lots of marketing muscle and skill is also helpful if developers are going to turn all their apps into gold.

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