Up until a year or two ago, not many believed that a trite cell phone game could become one of the most lucrative entertainment software products of all time. Today, everyone knows about Angry Birds, a game with over 30 million downloads just for Android OS devices and which is equally popular on iOS and several other mobile platforms.
The small Finnish company Rovio Mobile, established in 2003, has developed games for Electronics Arts and Nokia in the past, but suddenly turned into one of the most important global players in the electronic entertainment market in 2009, thanks to launching this game via the Android Market, App Store and other mobile markets.
Software development has become a lucrative business since the entire global market has opened up to small companies like Rovio Mobile through online app stores. Some individual programmers have had equal success -- many people have played Doodle Jump on their cell phone while its creators have been raking in the cash in their programming garage. There are dozens of similar examples of apps that have pulled in millions, and if the profit bar is set a bit lower, there would be thousands of examples with sums that are still almost as vast.
Today, the mobile applications development is a rapidly growing market. All a developer needs is the combination of a good idea, having it realized in a well-designed app, and placing it in global mobile software stores to guarantee success for its creators.
Are Programming Pros Necessary?
While everyone believes in their own idea, the programming skills necessary to turn it into a quality app are possessed by only professional developers. Those who do not have such skills don't stand a chance in the mobile markets unless they are prepared to invest significant funds in their idea by paying for expensive coding services... or do they?
If you Google the phrase "creating apps without programming", you will be surprised by the amount of relevant links that will appear in the search results. A great trend on the telecommunications market in the past few months has been the emergence of software tools which enable everyone to create an application for iOS, Android OS or some other mobile operating system without any programming skills or writing a single line of code.
Google itself offers such a tool, called the App Inventor. Applications are assembled block by block with this tool, from various available components, and the author just has to define how individual components should act. This is a typical example of visual programming where the creative process resembles a jigsaw puzzle game, the only difference being that the end result is always different.
It is therefore possible to create many different applications for Android OS -- from various quizzes, to ones that enables users to add hats, mustaches and similar fun accessories to photographs of their friends' faces. The App Inventor does not yet allow its end result on the Android Market, but Google is planning to introduce this option soon.
There are more and more similar software tools made by far less known companies than Google, and they make it possible for the end application to be available for sale straight away. A good example of such tools is the GameSalad by Gendai Games, which enables the creation of games for iPhone, iPad and iPod, as well as the Mobile App Generator for creating widgets and apps for the same devices.
One Possibility: ShoutEm
At the moment, the most interesting tool of this sort in my opinion is ShoutEm, a European startup which has its offices in New York and London. ShoutEm can create applications for iOS and Android OS in a matter of minutes, with two basic steps: setting up the contents and defining the design.
The content is set up by assembling various available modules (news, places, events, photographs, streaming...) and there is one among them which enables the creation of a social community. This community can function according to the mutual communication principle (like Twitter), the creation of friend connections (like Facebook) or reporting of locations (like Foursquare), while more advanced users can run additions for familiar CMS platforms like Wordpress and Drupal.
Application design boils down to uploading several images beforehand with defined dimensions, and the selection of colors which will be used for various objects. Once the application is finished, it can be registered at the App Store and the Android Market, for a monthly fee at ShoutEm which, depending on the selected package, starts at 30 dollars (package price is defined by the maximum number of allowed downloads from the market).
It is clear to see that all applications made with ShoutEm will have a recognizable look, however this is the price of simplicity, along with the fact that the user will not create exceptionally complex software.
Good and Bad Results
Can everyone make a fortune by developing smartphone applications even if they are not a developer? The fact is that the trend of tools for "programmers who do not program" will result in the appearance of a vast amount of noise on the mobile markets, which will make it even harder for consumers to choose quality applications for their smartphone.
On the other hand, the same market laws are applied to the mobile market as to any other store, thus applications and games which really have quality, and with a simple and original idea behind them, will soon sweep away the competition. Neither Angry Birds nor Doodle Jump are realistically demanding games when we speak of coding, but they certainly are simple and original.
About Dragan Petric
For the last fifteen years, Dragan Petric (www.draganpetric.com) has been working as an IT journalist, editor and analyst, with special interests in telecommunication technologies and services. In addition, he authored five books and published over 2,500 articles in many magazines and newspapers in Europe. He has attended about 30 telecommunications and IT congresses around the world and won several journalists awards for his work.
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