In the wake of the initial release of the iPhone, the American software industry and its new-found focus on developing mobile applications, or apps as we now affectionately refer to them, was performing brilliantly in 2008, even as the rest of the country was falling deep into recession.
“On average,” boasted an industry insider publication, “workers in the software and related services sector were paid $85,600 in 2007. This is 195 percent of the national average.”
Five years ago, 65 percent of all apps were created in the United States. A new report from tech analytic firm Flurry shows that we’re losing that grip. Right now, more apps are produced outside the US than within.
The loss of dominance is a story of translation, locality, China and Angry Birds.
“While US-made apps are used elsewhere, unsurprisingly, people in many other countries spend a significant amount of their app time in apps developed in their home countries,” writes Simon Khalaf in a blog post for Flurry explaining the report. “For example, 13 percent of the time spent in apps in the UK is spent in apps made in the UK and 8 percent of the time spent in apps in Brazil is spent in apps made in Brazil. But as is so often the case, it’s China where things get really interesting. Nearly two-thirds of the time spent in apps in China is spent in apps made in China. US-made apps only account for 16 percent of total time spent in apps in China. The size and growth rate of the Chinese app market imply that the worldwide share of time spent in apps that are produced in the US can be expected to contract further.”
The solution for American developers is branching out to worldwide appeal.
“While many US app developers are just starting to think about globalizing their apps, it has been a near necessity for developers in some other countries from the beginning. Consider the situation facing a developer in a small country where the local language is not one of the world’s dominant languages,” continues Khalaf. “Unless they create an app with global appeal (e.g., a flashlight app), or that can be adapted to local markets relatively easily (e.g., translation of a weather app), they are likely to end up with very few users. That is a problem since the time required to develop an app for a small number of users is no different from that required to develop an app used by a large number of people.”
Add this data to the heap of evidence that suggests the world is getting flatter and flatter every year.