Mobile App Landscape

I was recently touring old gold-mines in the California gold-rush region and some of the pictures of prospectors and mine-equipment from the 19th century were a stark reminder of how a lot has changed for the better since then regards working conditions and socioeconomic opportunity divide

However, some aspects such as the boom and bust dynamics stay the same. The market dynamic of the gold rush, is now at play in the mobile application space. Granted the personal cost, in this effort is a lot less than during the gold rush, the outcome will be similar: some early birds (or should I say angry birds) will get the worm.

The rapid penetration of sensor laden mobile platforms with decent compute capacity, backed by a 3G and 4G network infrastructure and coupled with an easily accessible marketplace and low capital costs of developing applications, has made this a remarkably attractive space to scratch the entrepreneurial itch.

However, sustaining a viable, pure mobile applications company is not easy, as borne out by statistics. This  has been addressed by several articles. A very nice analysis, albeit somewhat dated, of it is here and also another one here:

And a more recent article here:

I post below a graph I generated from data on Wikipedia on the number of apps in the Google-Play and the iOS marketplace to illustrate the trend.

Note: this is more to illustrate the trend. If the data was not month aligned, I allowed for a one month skew.

Given the flood of apps, growing at an exponential rate, only a miniscule percentage of these apps will see significant downloads and fewer still will have the stickiness to affect a behavioral change in the user base: a stickiness that makes the app a part of the users’ daily life/work-flow, providing a competitive barrier to displacement.  From the ROI perspective a pure app-development play is a long hard swim against the current. So unless you are building these apps at low cost without quitting your day job, using time you don’t mind losing, or  getting them built with money you don’t mind spending without expectation of return,   it is certainly not advisable to go the route of a pure mobile app start-up company.

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