News Column

App Developers Hit Hurdles on Way to Gold Rush

April 17, 2013

Andrej Sokolow, dpa

App Developers, business, examination

Berlin (dpa) - More than 80 billion apps are likely to be downloaded this year, accompanied by stories of the occasional developer who sells his app for millions.

But not every app is so successful and most app developers have to work hard to stay on top of things.

Indeed, the stories about 17-year-olds selling their work for fortunes are the exception, not the norm. Hoping to make a fortune with an app is like planning to become wealthy with the lottery.

Still, it is a healthy market. Market research agency Gartner forecasts the number of downloaded apps to rise to 130 billion in 2014 and to more than 300 million in 2016. Others expect the final numbers to be even higher.

But more than 90 percent of these downloads are for free, with any money for the developers coming from ads or the sale of accessories. Customers have grown to expect free apps.

It's also hard to get noticed among the flood. Users of Apple iPhones and iPads have the choice of 750,000 different apps.

"It's not enough to make a good app. You also have to be seen," says Sebastian Blum of California start-up Cooliris. The lucky ones have their products prominently displayed by Apple or get written up in a well-known technology blog.

"Everything behind that is a daily fight for survival," says Blum.

CoolIris, for example, is a free app that helps people view their pictures. Although it competes with dozens of other photo apps, it has enjoyed 3 million downloads. CoolIris had the luck of winning the deal to be pre-installed with the Google smartphone Nexus.

Nick D'Aloisio, a 17-year-old Briton who recently pocketed 30 million dollars from internet pioneer Yahoo for his intelligent news app Summly owes his success to a combination of luck and clever self-marketing.

He was helped by a favourable write up in the tech blog TechCrunch, as well as investments from celebrities like Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono, the widow of Beatle John Lennon.

An app like Mailbox also shows that there is money to be made in old ideas. Mailbox is nothing more than an email app, but it stands out from the rest of the field thanks to innovative concepts for managing news.

It also lucked out with good blog reviews and a live counter, that showed potential users how many others were waiting to download the programme.

Cloud storage specialist Dropbox has reportedly purchased the new app in recent weeks, for a $100 million mix of cash and shares.

And sometimes it takes more than one try. Finnish company Rovio suffered almost 40 flops before it had a mega-hit with Angry Birds, a game that had 1.7 billion downloads and continues to live on with new variations, even if they don't quite live up to the draw of the original.

That is why Rovio has now moved into Angry Bird licensing for figures, collectibles, theme parks and a cartoon series.

For more stories covering the world of technology, please see HispanicBusiness' Tech Channel

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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