For the better part of this decade Apple has created some amazing products from the Mac Book to the iPod to the iPhone. They've had an enormous technological and cultural impact, but even with all of these accomplishments, the meteoric rise of the App store is simply astonishing. They went from zero apps to 25,000 apps in a single year.
By giving developers access to the same tools Apple itself used to create the first generation iPhone apps, an amazing thing happened. The developers came in droves and they created games, utilities, accessories. Some were mundane like the famous fart apps and some downright impressive like the ones that turn your iPhone into a wireless network drive.
A look at the numbers
The numbers really defy adjectives. Consider that it has only been one year since Apple came out with its SDK and 8 months since the App Store opened. In this short time, Apple claims:
- 800,000 SDK downloads
- 50,000 developers have joined the paid developer program
- 25,000 Apps in the App Store
- Over 60 percent of developers never developed an Apple app before
- 96 percent of all apps submitted were approved.
- 98 percent were approved in 7 days or less
While we're looking at the numbers, consider that between the iPhone and the iPod Touch there are now more than 30M units with access to the App Store, a number that continues to grow.
SDK evens the playing field
Even though I know the St Patrick's Day Keynote was a lot of hype and blather, I was still impressed by the story of a lone developer named Steve Demeter, creator a game called Trism. Demeter downloaded the SDK and with some sleepless nights was able to create what became a popular app.
Demeter says he's not a big company with a huge marketing budget. He's literally just a guy with a computer and he has released a successful game. "The App Store is a meritocracy," Demeter says. "You can be a guy in a garage and if you are making a game that people enjoy, it will get noticed."
It gets even better
When you consider we are only at the beginning of this, it's amazing how much Apple and these developers have accomplished. The video of the iPhone 3.0 announcement is full of developer enhancements. One of the more interesting ones lets you set subscription fees on the fly, so you can renew an online magazine or pay a fee to go to the next level of a game. This gives developers much greater revenue flexibility. Instead of a one-time payment, there is the possibility for additional revenue over time.
Apple's success has given rise to similar models from almost every other phone OS from Blackberry to Android to Pre. Whether developers will have comparable success with other platforms remains to be seen.
It's worth noting that some developers have complained about Apple's tight control of the development process, but you can't argue with these numbers. It's clearly a model that works well for all concerned: Apple, the developers and iPhone/Touch users.