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Staying afloat in a sea of iPhone apps

Staying afloat in a sea of iPhone apps

As Apple's iPhone App Store hits 1.5 billion downloads, developers struggle to get noticed

The OzWeather iPhone app

The OzWeather iPhone app

Just how lucrative is the iPhone App Store for a business in application development? Is it easy to achieve success or is money on app development better spent elsewhere? The top Australian iPhone app developers speak exclusively to Computerworld about success in the iPhone App store.

Just one year on from launching its App Store, Apple has announced that some 1.5 billion applications have been downloaded worldwide from its site, the largest of its kind.

Since its launch in July last year, the App Store has exploded from an offering of 500 third-party apps, to more than 65,000, and more than 100,000 developers participating in the iPhone Developer Program.

Ranging from free to no more than $10, iPhone owners can download just about any conceivable application, from a moron test to run tracker.

While it's clear that there is strong demand from consumers for applications, just how easy is it to profit as a developer of iPhone apps?

Graham Dawson, creator of the OzWeather application, had already been working on weather related projects on the Web when a colleague suggested he try for the soon to be launched iPhone App store. About three months of hard work later, Dawson had his first application debut in the App Store within a week of its opening.

A year on, OzWeather is now a fixture on bus stop billboards, and the application has been downloaded over 40,000 times. Dawson attributes this success to his early start in the App Store race.

“The App Store is so much more crowded now," Dawson said. "I think there were less than 10,000 applications when OzWeather was launched, so now, obviously, visibility is a lot lower.”

Cairns-based Web developer Travis Yates of Webtopia, developed a Blackjack card counting app as an extension of his much loved hobby. While delighted with the media attention he has received for his popular app, he believes the over-crowding in the App Store since its invention will hurt his future chances of striking it rich.

“It’s really dried up now; there’s just so much competition at the moment with thousands of apps in there, and it’s getting really difficult to get noticed,” Yates said.

Being noticed, however, is something Yates has grown used to, with the gaming authority of the entertainment capital of the world -- Sin City -- noticing his app.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board, which oversees casinos in Las Vegas, plucked Yates’ app out of obscurity and gave him global media attention when the authority issued an alert to the Las Vegas casinos warning of the iPhone app.

Yates first heard of all the fuss when he received an email from a journalist requesting comment. The subsequent media frenzy bagged him $10,000 during the week following the story, but sales have since dwindled.

“The attention was exciting but nerve-wracking," he said. "I was worried about what the casinos thought of it and whether I would be in trouble. It was exciting to see all the publicity making the sales grow, but nervous.”

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