Photo by liferfe.
The mobile software market is becoming very exciting, and I’ve been watching with interest. I’ve been learning iPhone development for the last ten months, first with the jailbreak toolchain, and in the last six months with the official SDK. Likewise, I’ve been dabbling with the Android SDK.
Many people have compared the growth of mobile software in the last year to the amazing growth of the early PC era.
One difference from those years, is that mobile software is already mainstream. The “personal computer” took about 20 years to “catch on,” from the introduction of the Apple I in 1977, to the Windows boom of the mid-90s. In contrast, Apple has sold over 10 million iPhones in the last 11 months alone. There are few consumers that aren’t at least aware of the iPhone’s existence. T-Mobile sold about a million Android-powered G1 phones in only one month of pre-sale orders from existing T-Mobile customers. The device can now be ordered online for new and existing accounts, although demand is expected to be very high, causing possible shortages. They claim they can sell another million G1 phones between now and the end of the year.
Another difference is the barrier to entry. Computers cost thousands of dollars in the 1980s, and were not as easy to use and develop for at the beginning. To be a developer back then, you had to be a computer engineer or someone with previous software development experience on mainframes or minicomputers, which at the time was not as widespread knowledge as in these dime-a-dozen-MCSD days. The barrier to entry was very high, economically and educationally. The barrier to entry for iPhone and Android development is very low, with devices available for less than $200 USD. If you already develop software, be it for the web, intranets, or desktops, you already have most of the skills, and a computer with which to develop. So the cost of development tools and training for these platforms is very low, especially for Android. How come it is lower for Android development, you ask?
To develop for the iPhone App Store, you need to already own a Mac with Leopard 10.5.4. So if you don’t have a Mac, that’s an extra expense. With Android, you can use the computer you already have. To put your application on the iPhone App Store, you need to pay $99 USD + tax to Apple and submit your application and say please and cross your eyes and dot your tease (double pun intended, if perhaps lame.) You can sell Android apps from the trunk of your car at a flea market if you want, but to sell them on the Android Market you need to pay $25 USD, although there is no validation or approval process. For either iPhone or Android, you need to buy a device to test on real hardware and make sure things run well.
Of course, you can always develop iPhone software for the iPhone jailbreak community, using the computer you already own, without having to pay anyone a cent, nor having to seek permission. You will still need a device on which to test on, which brings you up to par with Android in terms of barrier to entry. But then you’d be limiting your market to the 20 to 30 % of iPhone users who jailbreak their device. 200,000 – 300,000 and growing is not a bad number of potential users, though. Many of today’s software giants were founded when PC user numbers were much lower.
Anyhow, I digress. My point is that just like I heard the call of the wild and left full-time employment in a Java consulting shop for freelance web work in Rails nearly three years ago, I hear the winds of change and opportunity roaring by. And I want to get my kite out and test the wind.
As you can see, I’ve researched the market. I’m going to cut back on freelance web projects, to start dedicating time to developing a growing stable of ad-supported and for pay mobile apps, for both iPhone and Android. I can bootstrap this effort and support myself for two years on only a small portion of my savings. I believe there is enough growth in the mobile apps market to make back my investment and grow it a little bit. The monetary barrier to entry is so low, the only risk is time and effort lost if things don’t work out. If that happens, I can always go back to what I did before. But I’m not going to forgive myself if I don’t try this.
There will be other related news soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the breeeeezeeeee. Ha ha!
Song “Can You Hear The Wind Blow”, by Whitesnake