Apps prove to be gold rush for Silicon Valley

January 4, 2012 6:28:11 PM PST
A record-breaking 1.3 billion apps were downloaded Christmas week by new owners of smartphones and tablets, and that's a mother lode of gold for all those app developers in Silicon Valley.

First we had dot-com millionaires, now app developers have the very same opportunity in Silicon Valley. Not bad when you consider that many apps sell for just 99 cents.

No one really knows how many app developers work in Silicon Valley, but it's in the thousands.

Michael Burks is working on his very first app that plays music on the iPad.

"You can make a good living if you get the killer app which everybody wants," says Burks. "That's tricky and not easy to do."

There are now hundreds of thousands of apps available for smartphones and tablets. Only a handful are killer apps. Many developers focus instead on apps for learning and sharing information.

The demand for apps in now global in multiple languages.

"A lot of countries, too, have bypassed the web and the PC and gone straight to the smartphone for communication and access to information and access to the web, and now apps and demand for those apps," says Brendan Clavin of Tethras.

Tim Burks has about a dozen apps in the Apple App Store. He's working on several new ones, including a multi-player slot machine for the iPad.

"I think the sense that it's a gold rush has passed, but at the same time there are so many problems that you see in the world that are waiting to be solved with apps," he says.

App development competition is getting fierce.

"It is getting much more competitive with over 500,000 apps in the iTunes App Store," says app developer Aleksey Novicov. "It is a challenge, but I think there's also still a lot of opportunity."

Bill Nguyen, a startup veteran whose latest app is Color, would like to see young app developers do their own startups.

"Boy, I'd love to hire them," says Nguyen. "I'd do anything in the world to have them here, but I hope they go and try to build something because even if they don't make it, they're going to learn so much more about what the phone means to changing our lives, and I'd love to hire them then, too."

Developers say they don't mind the possibility of getting rich, but almost all of them tell us they're just looking for outlet for their creativity and to help solve needs.