Apps create new innovation paradigm

23 Sep 2010|Added Value

In my last blog post, I noted that the mobile web is better suited for innovation since it is easier for programmers to create an app for the phone than the computer. I thought it would be a good idea to elaborate on why I believe that the mobile web is ripe for innovation:

Firstly, development of mobile apps requires fewer hands on the deck. Many successful mobile apps have been created by a small team of developers (a small team of 2-3 developers working in their garage in their spare time or in some cases just one developer). And I am referring to complex gaming, entertainment and productivity apps like iShoot, Pulse, Flipboard and Tap Tap Revenge. Historically, creating software applications has been less labor and capital intensive compared to other industries, but mobile apps have made it possible for a sole programmer to create a successful app in their spare time in a few months or even weeks. A case in the point is the successful gaming app iShoot. As noted in the NYT, it was written by a single programmer Ethan Nichols who worked “morning, noon and night” while he was working as a programmer for Sun Microsystems in just six weeks.

Secondly, there is lesser or often no need to raise capital: no need to make rounds of Sand Hill Road visiting VCs to raise rounds of venture capital funding or look for angel investors. Many successful apps have been created by college students or programmers working in their spare time. If the app becomes successful, engineers have been easily able to make thousands of dollars after the first day of the release of the app. Nichols, the creator of iShoot, earned $800,000 in first five months after the release of the app, and he obviously quit his job following the success of his gaming app.

Thirdly, since apps are easy to bring to market, they are often updated. It is easier to add new functionality and improve features. I have about 30 apps on my iPhone and I update some of them every 15 days. Unlike the PC where most applications are updated against viruses and security flaws in the system, most of the times when I update my apps I see they get some new functionalities or a paid version with even more features and better interface becomes available.

Lastly, there is a vast knowledge base that is available to help build apps. Stanford University offers courses in building iPhone and iPad apps and some of the courses are available on iTunes for everyone. The highly successful iPad app, Pulse was developed by two Stanford graduate students in the Launch Pad class in only 10 weeks. YouTube has several courses for aspiring app builders for iPhone, Android and RIM also.

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