The mobile app in a haystack

Between the remarkable success of select mobile gaming applications such as Angry Birds and Words with Friends and the ability to bootstrap development at relatively low costs through the cloud, its no surprise so many developers flock to mobile applications.

The realistic possibility of reaching a billion customers by submitting an application to the app store renders their aspirations of fame and fortune lofty yet attainable. But greater competition and higher user demand are making many of those dreams ephemeral.

According to Gartner, 90% of today’s paid applications are downloaded less than 500 times per day. By 2018 that number is expected to plummet to where only one in ten thousandconsumer apps will be considered a financial success by their developers.

One of the reasons developers are struggling to break through is sheer volume.  There are roughly one million apps each in the Google Play and Apple iTune’s app stores, a magnitude that makes it harder for developers to get noticed.

The other factor affecting developers’ ability to turn a profit is user demand. Technologies have enabled new capabilities, which in turn have changed customer expectations. To achieve the added level of sophistication required by today’s consumers demands higher costs for development, testing, deployment, and support.

While rate of success weans, the pot at the end of the rainbow is getting larger (look at success stories like Instagram or SnapChat), and that will continue to serve as the carrot at the end of the stick driving application innovation.

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the power of word of mouth and its ability to tip a given fad over the threshold, rendering a social epidemic. For a developer to be successful, their app will need to generate a similar buzz and rise to the top of an increasingly diluted marketplace.

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