Are You a Part of the iPhone Revolution?
by Tony Kontzer
Is the iPhone America's best hope for economic recovery? And is your company with the program?
This week, as the Apple developer community gathers in San Francisco to learn how to build cutting-edge apps for the iPhone and Mac, the cult of Apple has assumed on a new role, that of economic engine. Apple has always had an ecosystem around it, but until the iPod washed over the U.S., that ecosystem had a counter-establishment theme to it. Educators and students, graphic artists and musicians -- creative markets such as these made up the bulk of the Apple universe, which toiled in relative obscurity beside the Microsoft kingdom.
Then the iPhone and, before that, the iPod, created a steady cash stream for electronics dealers and mobile communications providers.
Now the iPhone may be changing the balance of power in the technology industry. With healthy demand for an expanding portfolio of mobile apps turning the iPhone into much more than just a phone, the fast-growing legions of young developers flocking to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference do so as a group with potential clout. Just as developer communities turned eBay and Amazon.com from an auction site and online retailer into hubs of online economic activity, Apple developers are helping iPhone users fill their devices with all the productivity and entertainment functionality one could want, and regularly use a good chunk of what they download.
In some cases, young developers are getting extra encouragement, such as some entrepreneurial students at the University of Missouri-Columbia's School of Journalism, where the new Reynolds Journalism Institute hosted a recent competition to build the best iPhone app. The winning entry, a location-based real estate app called NearBuy that lets you build a home-buying map with pins representing each prospective home (take a test drive here), was announced last month , and the four-student team behind it is attending the Apple gathering as a reward.
What you can take from it all is this: iPhones have found an excited audience of users hungry for information and entertainment at a touch, and for applications that will let them access, interact with, and use that information in new ways. And it's very reminiscent of the way eBay and Amazon developers have given users of those sites new ways to buy and sell stuff.
With increased demand on the developer community to crank out applications, and with money to be made by those who come up with the best apps, the iPhone certainly has taken on the look of an economic engine, and developers looking for entrepreneurial outlets are no doubt taking notice. Which means IT executives may want to look for opportunities to build proprietary iPhone apps that their most Apple-leaning developers can work on. Think of it as a form of ship-jumping prevention.