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App Developers, It's Time For a Reality Check 161

Nerval's Lobster writes: "An article in the Harvard Business Review does its best to punch a small hole in the startup-hype balloon. 'Encouraging kids to blow off schoolwork to write apps, or skip college to become entrepreneurs, is like advising them to take their college money and invest it in PowerBall,' Jerry Davis, Wilbur K. Pierpont professor of management at the Ross School of Business and the editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, wrote in that column. 'A few may win big; many or most will end up living with their moms.' Whether or not the unfortunate developer ends up back in the childhood bedroom, it's true that, with millions of apps available across all mobile platforms, it's increasingly difficult for independent developers to stand out. Compounding the problem, some of the hottest companies out there for developers and programmers don't have nearly enough job openings to absorb the flood of graduates from the world's universities. So what's a developer to do? Continue to plow forward, with adjusted expectations: the prospect of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg is just too tantalizing for many people to pass up, even if the chances of wild success are smaller than anyone rational would like to admit."
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App Developers, It's Time For a Reality Check

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  • Doing the math... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eric Wise ( 3521651 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:56PM (#46643713)

    So reading the NYT article, the boys had the idea in Dec 2011 and released their app in Jan 2013. So a year with two people, learning to build an app, etc. They split $30,000...

    Now let me preface this by saying that the skills they learned are worth money, knowledge is invaluable. But I meet people every week who are looking to make a quick buck off of apps. I would imagine these boys put in at least 1000 hours on this initiative, plus all the spend for the traveling and stuff they did. All said and done, they probably made minimum wage at best off this app.

    The new tech bubble is mobile.

  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @05:59PM (#46643733)

    There are jobs out there. However, the days of 2008 where one could put out 99 cent fart apps and rake in the cash, or the days of 2012 where one could put out a free-to-play, pay-to-win game are now behind us. The market is saturated.

    But there are markets where things are not like that and niches can be made. Embedded programming will be work that requires a real expert, just because each application (and hardware device) is different. A microcontroller for a RV's A/C will require a completely different set of code than a microcontroller that monitors a building's HVAC system at multiple locations. One size does not fit all in the embedded arena, so "commodity development" (i.e. offshoring) will be more expensive than hiring people domestically since there is new ground to be broken.

    I'm sure the next bubble is going to be security. SSL/TLS need to be reworked to support multiple root CAs in case one is compromised. That way, if two CAs have no clue about a cert, but one CA vets it, this can raise a red flag. Security isn't something one can do on the cheap. This needs real expertise, and more than just reading "The Cookoo's Egg" and calling oneself a "security professional". White/black hat hacking is going to be an important part of things, and this, yet again, isn't something that comes cheap.

    Then there is the fact that there are international issues now. Just last year, people were content to get all their hardware from one country, their software from another. Now, nations want to pack their own parachutes and develop their security in house, and not rely solely on the word of other countries that the smartphones or other items don't come bristling with backdoors and kill switches. So, there will be duplication of effort that wasn't around just a year ago.

    On this note, governments will become a bigger client for developers. They will want their own infrastructures, social media sites, and many other items. This will be where the money lies for upcoming companies because governments have deep pockets, and the ability to work on things even if not an immediate profit is obtainable.

    Then there are items to be addressed that would make money, infrastructure wise. Here in the US, there is plenty of LAN bandwidth to go around. WAN bandwidth is expensive. Someone making an infrared laser routing system and other means (microwave relay) to create a mesh network would likely make a lot of money, especially if it has innate encryption that consists of more than "trust us, the glowing 'it is encrypted' LED ensures 100% security" flim-flam.

    Finally, the model of advertising revenue is going to hit a wall pretty soon. Once ad-supported sites start selling to advertisers every click, mouse wiggle, and keyboard stroke that subscribers do, or even worse, demand intrusive spyware be installed on subscribers' machines, then there will be no more they can sell to the advertisers. Once that happens, the bubble will collapse. Who knows from there. "Free" E-mail may become a thing of the past, perhaps even Google or other search engine use would require micropayments.

    All and all, there are still niches to be filled. One just can't follow the herd all day long and expect to be able to get to fresh grass.

  • by Rob Fielding ( 3524407 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @06:29PM (#46644013)
    For mobile apps, this is actually not a bad idea if you can afford to fail; because you are still unattached enough that nobody depends on your income in a critical way. If nobody is going to pay your way through college, then you have nothing to lose. Get your failures and experience in before you have a house and a kid. LinkedIn will light up for you as a side-effect. A lot of my friends are the top developers in the iOS music app space; and I was in the mosh pit trying to make it happen along with them (while working a good full-time job - contemplating full time app dev). A small number of them make a healthy living doing little more than occasional maintenance on long-shipped apps while using the rest of their time learning the craft and having a life. 90% of them fail badly, with improved job prospects. The 30% Apple tax is high, but the mobile user mindset is what makes it hard. The large volume of users that can drive your asking price down nicely can also be a major support nightmare because you have to deal with them directly. You will deal with fads, gaming the review system (ie: send you an email that implies that if they don't get something for free in a few days that you will get a 1 star review, or requesting refunds while keeping the app and still sending support questions for months on end). The huge numbers of apps can make it hard to get a foothold on iOS/Android. On other platforms, even a well promoted and executed (even best and only for its category) app can still fail because there really are almost no users. Even given a *great* app and somebody that's good at the business, it's still far more of a gamble than showing up to a job and knowing how much you will make. But it's far better to do this while you are living with your mom than sitting around doing nothing or working an unskilled job for minimum wage.
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2014 @07:07PM (#46644337) Homepage Journal

    [yeah, this is a digression]

    SSL/TLS need to be reworked to support multiple root CAs in case one is compromised. That way, if two CAs have no clue about a cert, but one CA vets it, this can raise a red flag.

    That's not how you do multiple CAs. You don't raise red flags; you abstain from raising green ones. Everything starts red by default. No CA (even the most hated and distrusted one) can ever possibly harm your estimation that a key is correct; they can simply fail to increase your estimate. Trust is somewhere between zero and one, but never less than zero. Even Cthulhu Hitler CA rates no less than 0.0.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.