App Development: Path to Easy Money?

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My colleague Carl Weinshenk recently referred to mobile application developers as being in "in an enviable position."


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CBS Moneywatch listed app development among its six-figure dream jobs-high-paying work that doesn't require an advanced degree. It says demand is expected to grow by 131 percent this year and that app developers can earn up to $115,000. When I interviewed Bob Miano of consultancy Harvey Nash, he told me that mobile app developers can pretty much write their own ticket.


As Amanda L. Griffith, an assistant professor of economics at Wake Forest University, pointed out as part of the whole tech-vs.-liberal-arts debate in The New York Times, it's a matter of supply and demand. With so few skilled developers available, demand is high-as are salaries.


Carl wrote that the mobile smartphone category is nearly 61 million devices strong-and that's not counting the market for tablets. So yes, Carl, that "certainly will continue to push the development community."


I talked to Giles Nugent, the iPhone app development instructor at the SAE Institute in New York, who told me that in contrast to 15 years ago, the barriers to entering the field of application development are low:

... to be a developer in the iPhone space, you can get a Mac, you can get the development environment, which is free, and you can start developing apps, using your creativity. You have to buy a $99 license to start distributing those apps, then distribute those apps through the App Store, where there's already this broad distribution mechanism available.

He also told me that many of those in the field are self-taught:

A lot of people just learn from the books, that's how I learned. Apple's websites, reading books, Google is a godsend to developers. There are various websites dedicated to questions and answers around iPhone and Android development....And as people want to learn in a more timely manner, a more structured manner, the courses are growing... You don't need a lot to get going.

There is the matter of learning the programming language, Objective-C for Apple products. Nugent concedes that it is complex, but in the end, "it is just another language." Is he making it sound too simple? He talks about how you don't need a huge computer infrastructure as in years past. But obviously, if it were that simple, we'd all be doing it and driving wages down.


This Data Center Knowledge article says:

This may not be difficult for experienced C programmers, but Objective-C requires significant programming capabilities and may pose a steep learning curve for newcomers. Android developers use Java, C or C++ as the main programming languages for app development.
Both the iPhone and Android platforms provide development tools for making app development process easier and coherent. Still, these are high-level programming languages that relatively few master when compared to the vast number of skilled Web developers that focus on using Web-centric technologies and standards like HTML, CSS, JavaScript and XML.

That article argues that apps are destined for the cloud and that HTML5 and new tools coming down the pike will make Apple's App Store and the Android Market obsolete, a scenario Carl mentioned before concluding that such efforts will only go so far and that downloaded apps aren't going away soon.