The Mobile App Markets Are Growing Up

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The mobile app market is entering a period of unbridled creativity that will remap the mobile industry, according to a new study of over 400 developers.

The VisionMobile report maps the evolution of the mobile app market onto the much longer eras of second-millennium history. The analogy is obviously a stretch, but it provides a useful frame for thinking about the evolution of mobile apps. In the Dark Ages (2000 to 2004), only a select few mobile industry insiders held power, according to , a market analysis and strategy firm. The next five years saw a Renaissance: app stores opened up, anyone with coding experience could jump on board. In the Industrial Revolution (2010 to 2014), developers will drive innovation and operating systems will spread to other devices, such as picture frames and car dashboards.

Efficiency is on the rise, too. It takes 22 days to make an app available to customers after submitting it to an app store, while it takes 68 days using other, more traditional channels such as pre-loading the software on a device or selling through a mobile carrier's own portal. The time in which they get paid is just 36 days, relative to the 82 days they'd wait for revenue generated by in-store purchases.

But the economics of app stores are far from perfect. Despite the hype, nearly 60 percent of iPhone developers said they had yet to hit their revenue targets. Only five percent reported "very good" revenues. Ad-funded business models still lag behind pay-per-download models.

On the brightside, the report concludes that, over the next five years, app-writers will have the upper-hand: "In this age, developers have both power and choice."

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Niraj Chokshi is a former staff editor at TheAtlantic.com, where he wrote about technology. He is currently freelancing and can be reached through his personal website, NirajC.com. More

Niraj previously reported on the business of the nation's largest law firms for The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper. He has also been published in The Hartford Courant, The Seattle Times and The Age, in Melbourne, Australia. He's also a longtime programmer and sometimes website designer.
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