CEO Mark Mason talks to Richard Milton from The Daily Telegraph about the mobile market.
Industry experts agree that now is the time for IT engineers to consider a move into app development, says Richard Milton.
The mobile market has created a gold rush among software developers looking to produce downloadable applications for the latest generation of smartphones. Apps, which can do anything from updating stock prices to morphing your phone into a spirit level, generated global revenues of £3.14 billion last year.
Apple, the major player with its perennially popular iPhone, has 350,000 apps in its iTunes AppStore, while Google offers around 150,000 on its Android Market website. Many thousands more are available from independent stores that are springing up on the internet, and there are also dedicated app stores catering directly to owners of other smartphones. The most popular apps have been downloaded 10 millions times or more.
Not surprisingly, a new generation of IT engineers is devoting itself to the development of apps. According to Mark Mason, chief executive of Mubaloo, one of the UK’s biggest producers of apps: “The growth of the smartphones and the consequent popularity of apps is driving a huge demand for developer talent. This is relatively new technology and there aren’t that many developers with the right skill sets. It’s an excellent time for IT engineers to move into app development as this market is set to grow for many years to come.”
Mason also points out that entry to this industry is relatively easy at present. “Even if you have only a small amount of experience in mobile development, you are likely to get a job. It’s also great fun. Mubaloo has developed more than 75 apps – from the simple ‘Find my nearest Carphone Warehouse’ to complex spread0betting and share-dealing apps. The market is still young and there’s plenty of opportunity at the moment.”
Tom Hume, managing director of app developer Future Platforms, thinks the ability of apps to interact with our personal behaviour will be important in the future. “All of us are carrying around devices that have a wide array of sensors capable of tracking what we do and even how we move,” he says. “It means we’re going to see a lot more apps with social implications.”
For example, sportswear company Nike’s Nike+ GPS app can come with a sensor that fits into the sole of your running shoe and keeps track of your workout. This could help inspire people to get fit. “I think we’re going to see many more very interesting apps coming along in the next couple of years.” adds Hume.
Games are another big growth area for apps, “We’re always on the lookout for new people, and if we find someone we like, we’ll probably take them on,” says Oli Christie, chief executive of Neon Play. “We tend to offer potential recruits a week or two-week placement so we can ‘try before we buy’. It’s also a good way to get in the door, so I would always recommend that young IT engineers ask for a work trial to prove themselves. The worst that can happen is that your CV improves and your learn from the experience.”
Talented IT engineers are highly desirable too. “We’re finding that engineers with extensive knowledge of existing frameworks, and a willingness to work with them, are extremely valuable assets to the business, ” says greg Taylor, design and UI/UX (user interface/user experience) director at TigerSpike. He advises young IT engineers to build applications in their spare time. “Developing apps, and software in general, keeps the cycle of learning turning,” he says. “The best engineers understand both the code and the end user.”
Keeping the user in mind is a challenge, but John Stevens, joint managing director of 2ergo, which offers mobile marketing and business strategy solutions, says the most successful developers are those who can do so. “It’s easy to get hooked on the functionality of an app. Instead, think about how smartphones and the mobile web are changing our daily routines.”
Developers also need to have empathy with the middlemen – the retailers and marketers who will sell on the app to the end user. “They are looking to build loyalty, drive footfall and increase sales,” says Stevens.