Apps Pupil

16 Sep 2009

You want to know what scene is growing as fast as the iPhone App Store? The iPhone apps developer community. Especially right here in Ireland.

Since its official launch in June 2008 more than 1.5bn applications have been downloaded by iPhone and iPod touch owners but something has to feed the smart phone beast and software developers in Ireland are beginning to see the value in learning how to bring their own App Store creations to fruition.

Of course!

IPhone Apps Ireland is running a beginner’s course in apps development Monday, 21 September, aimed at developers who have “a programming language or two under their belts already” but are not interested in moving into Mac and iPhone development.

Vinny Coyne is already a pretty successful apps developer with popular applications including My Bill and EirText Pro featuring in the Irish app store charts. He will be teaching the course.

“I’ll be covering the Objective-C programming language from the ground up and moving into iPhone-specific frameworks after that,” explained Coyne.

“The course is billed as a beginners course in iPhone development, but I will also be covering a lot of the more advanced iPhone topics, such as GPS, Maps integration, and accelerometer access.”

The demand for iPhone app developers is increasing not just because people like to download fun and useful applications for their smart phone through the App Store but also because it becomes a gateway to market a business’ product or service: “Having a good app on the App Store can introduce your product or service to millions of iPhone and iPod touch users. Mobile technologies, such as location-based services, can provide a rich experience to customers,” adds Coyne, citing the new Dublin Bikes.

“Of course, iPhone development is not solely about selling on the App Store. Companies can also develop in-house applications to keep track of inventory, or allow employees to input sales data while on the road. The possibilities are endless.”

Challenges to development

On the flip side, iPhone app development is not some magic road paved with gold and diamonds. There are rules, and the usual laws of supply and demand apply.

There are challenges involved in becoming a successful apps developer, says Coyne, referencing the infamous Apple guidelines within which it can be so difficult to remain.

“I have had to turn away so many great concepts because they wouldn’t have made it past the App Store approval process.”

Added to this the App Store is such a huge market that it can be difficult to survive on sales alone, remarks Coyne.

“A lot of developers, including myself, would have a couple of apps on the store and do freelance work to supplement that. While I have had success with both My Bill and EirText Pro, they are very Irish-centric apps, and there wouldn’t be enough income there from sales alone.”

The other guys

So there’s a lot of competition and everyone wants to have the killer app but why haven’t RIM’s Blackberry App World or Nokia’s Ovi Store gained much ground in comparison? It seems as though catching up with the Cupertino wunderkind is harder than they thought.

“I think it’s a combination of a few things. First off, Apple were the first to do it and they got it pretty much spot-on with their first attempt. They made paying for, downloading, and installing apps as easy as a couple of button taps. You can’t beat the simplicity of the App Store and its integration with iTunes.

“Another thing Apple did was market the App Store, so that everyone knew that it was possible to install apps on your iPhone or iPod. Nokia and RIM just don’t seem to have the confidence (or budget) to push their stores as hard as Apple did.

“Finally, Apple already had great development tools built for the Mac. Anyone who had ever written a line of code for Mac will already be familiar with the dev tools for iPhone. It’s even possible to port over existing Mac code into an iPhone app, without having to change much beyond the user-interface,” says Coyne.

Coyne is part of the Irish Xcake dev community and will be teaching on the iPhone Apps Ireland course, which runs run for five days at Bewleys, Newlands Cross and will cost €899 per person. You can tweet him for more details.

By Marie Boran, via