Nine Years of Apple's iOS SDK generated $60 billion, 1.4 million jobs

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2017
Nine years ago, Apple released its first Software Development Kit for iOS, enabling third parties to build native apps for iPhone and iPod touch for sale in the iTunes App Store. The program has since generated over $60 billion for Apple's developers and has created 1.4 million jobs related to app development.




Apple initially launched its first iOS devices in 2007 without any ability to load third-party native software. Apart from its own first party software Apple bundled on the devices, iPhone and iPod touch could only otherwise run web apps within the Safari browser.

After the original iPhone announcement, Apple's then chief executive Steve Jobs took questions from the stage at the company's shareholder meeting. I asked about whether Apple recognized the demand for native iPhone apps, and whether it would reconsider its current stance that limited third-party apps to the web. Jobs answered that Apple was looking at the issue, including security issues involved with opening up access to the new platform.

Calls for opening up native iOS apps continued to mount, particularly after iPhone shipped at the end of June 2007 and users got their first experience working with Apple's own native apps on the mobile device.

Seeing the rich, "desktop class" native applications Apple itself had developed for iPhone using Objective C--effectively Mac apps scaled down and optimized to work with the iOS multitouch interface, including Mail, Safari and Maps--outside developers stridently lobbied for similar access. Without access to Apple's development native frameworks, they could only build specialized web apps, like these pictured below (Facebook and a transit web app).




Apple had decades of experience in building development tools for its Mac platform, but mobile devices opened up new challenges related to security and privacy. Since 2005, the company had also begun working on signed, secured iPod Games downloadable through iTunes for purchase, in partnership with a few video game developers. The brand new software running iPhone also needed further security vetting before opening access to third parties.

By October 2007--just over three months after iPhone went on sale--Jobs announced that Apple would release the tools needed for third-party developers to create their own iOS apps.
"Let me just say it: We want native third-party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers' hands in February," Jobs wrote in an online comment.

"We are excited about creating a vibrant third-party developer community around the iPhone and enabling hundreds of new applications for our users. With our revolutionary multi-touch interface, powerful hardware and advanced software architecture, we believe we have created the best mobile platform ever for developers.

"It will take until February to release an SDK because we're trying to do two diametrically opposed things at once--provide an advanced and open platform to developers while at the same time protect iPhone users from viruses, malware, privacy attacks, etc. This is no easy task. Some claim that viruses and malware are not a problem on mobile phones--this is simply not true. There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network. As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target.

"Some companies are already taking action. Nokia, for example, is not allowing any applications to be loaded onto some of their newest phones unless they have a digital signature that can be traced back to a known developer. While this makes such a phone less than 'totally open,' we believe it is a step in the right direction. We are working on an advanced system which will offer developers broad access to natively program the iPhone's amazing software platform while at the same time protecting users from malicious programs.

"We think a few months of patience now will be rewarded by many years of great third-party applications running on safe and reliable iPhones. - Steve

"P.S.: The SDK will also allow developers to create applications for iPod touch."
After delivering its developers the new iOS SDK just a few days later than intended in early March 2008, Apple opened the iOS App Store and customers immediately began buying incredible numbers of iPhone apps.

As iPhone hardware sales took off, the demand for software titles grew along with it. In 2010 Apple added iPad to the iOS App Store, enabling a larger format of tablet-optimized apps. Later that year Apple launched an App Store for Macs, although the much smaller user base among Mac users, coupled with iOS-style restrictions on Mac Apps, has made it a far smaller operation.

Attempts by other mobile platform vendors to compete with the App Store have also been weak. Nokia's Ovi, Palm's App Catalog, Microsoft's Windows Phone Store and BlackBerry World failed to garner Apple success despite having larger installed bases of users.

Apple's closest competitor has been Google's Play for Android, which has often boasted more titles and more users but still trails the App Store in overall quality and desirable, exclusive titles for smartphones and tablets. Developers overwhelmingly write for iOS first because Apple's platform has consistently offered better development tools, a unified platform of devices on the same OS release, and far less hardware fragmentation.

Last summer, App Annie reported that while Google Play served twice as many downloads, the App Store generated twice the revenue. Apple's rapidly growing app business has been the primary driver of the company's Services segment.

Apple's all about the Apps

Apple directly benefits from App Store sales and In App Purchases. Interest in apps also helps to drive demand for premium hardware that runs the latest games and innovative software.

The strategic importance of the App Store is reflected in Apple's decision last winter to move its App Stores out of Eddy Cue's iTunes and iCloud oversight and instead assign them to Phil Schiller, its head of worldwide marketing.

The company has also invested heavily in making it easier to develop iOS apps, apparent in its work on the Swift programing language introduced in 2014 and the company's new Swift Playgrounds for iPad, a new tool designed for teaching the basics of code to a new generation of aspiring programmers.




Apple's focus on apps is also apparent in its portrayal of apps as being "the future of television" on Apple TV, and a renewed effort to make Apple Watch a more effective platform for third-party developers with the release of watchOS 3.0.




The company has also made apps--rather than just hardware features--central to its accessibility efforts intended to make the power of computing available to as many people as possible. Last year at WWDC, Apple invited deaf-blind accessibility advocate Haben Girma to address third-party app developers at its development conference, to encourage them to think about building accessibility into their own apps from the start.

Despite reporting the "death of apps," 2016 was the best year ever

Last year, a series of tech luminaries gravely warned that apps were over. Peter Kafka of recode gravely warned that "the app boom is over;" Casey Newton of The Verge wrote of app developers facing bankruptcy; Alex Austin of TechCrunch profiled Apple's App Store as being a "graveyard" with "an air of hopelessness."

However, during 2016 Apple actually paid its app developers a record $20 billion, an increase of 40 percent over 2015. In the months since, Apple has set new records including a new all-time high on January 1, 2017 where the company sold nearly $240 million worth of software in one day.

Apple notes there are now 2.2 million titles in its App Stores, an increase of 20 percent over the previous year. Sales in China grew by 90 percent, and Apple now operates App Stores in 155 countries globally.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    irelandireland Posts: 16,907member
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    edited March 2017
  • Reply 2 of 16
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,012member
    So at best that was $25B for Apple. After discounts on iTunes cards, etc I'm wondering how much they actually grossed on apps.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.

    Based on what? Those idiots who divide the total number of Apps into the amount paid out and conclude that each App only makes a few thousand dollars? Therefore developers aren't making money?
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    phone-ui-guyphone-ui-guy Posts: 1,012member
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.

    Because App developers don't get paid well? Where is your reasoning? 2.2 Million apps in their stores in 155 countries. Sure you could get one guy cranking out 20 apps over time, but you are also going to have large game and productivity app teams that have a very large staff working on a single title. These are not generic Apple created jobs like retail store staff, fedex guys delivering phones, etc... These are jobs related to app development worldwide.
    edited March 2017 StrangeDays
  • Reply 5 of 16
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,495member
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    I'm not suspicious. I just dismiss this sort of claim without citation as pure speculation.
  • Reply 6 of 16
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    A "job" does not infer a living wage, in govt terminology or private work force. A lot of potential opportunities were created when SJ opened the third party gates.
    60b is amazing. Some friends are developers creating games, and they love the process of creating. Some do it as side venture until they get a foot in the door, others just dabble. I work in film creation and like most creators I would love a home run, still love the process.
    DanielEran
  • Reply 7 of 16
    DanielEranDanielEran Posts: 199editor
    So at best that was $25B for Apple. After discounts on iTunes cards, etc I'm wondering how much they actually grossed on apps.
    Apple had been earning nothing from 3rd party Mac software. Post App Store, bringing in ~25B from selling other partners software is a pretty good business. And it's growing 40% yoy. And helping to sell ~$200b premium hardware. 

    volcan said:
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    I'm not suspicious. I just dismiss this sort of claim without citation as pure speculation.
    Public numbers from 2015 by Apple on its job creation site. You could google it, or post online of your scepticism of facts, as if your ignorance is of the same value as well known facts reported by a credible source. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,138moderator
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    A "job" does not infer a living wage, in govt terminology or private work force.
    I would say it should match up to a minimum wage job to qualify. This would be about $15k per year. Over 9 years, this would be $135k per developer. If you divide $60b into $135k, that's 444k developers able to be supported full-time at minimum wage directly. It's heavily weighted towards the big franchises but some of them employ thousands of people. On top of paid app revenue is ad revenue, which is around the same amount again so that's enough for 888k developers full-time. Outside of this, there's employment for developing apps for companies that make revenue elsewhere. A bit further out would be marketing/website jobs for supporting apps as well as asset creation like music, artwork and there's cloud infrastructure. 1.4 million jobs worldwide seems like a reasonable figure considering there are 2 million apps in the stores now. Walmart employs 2.2m people directly. 1.4m supported from an ecosystem that has over 1 billion customers isn't an excessive estimate.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    normmnormm Posts: 501member
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    I think the 1.4 million jobs figure was Apple's estimate of the number of US iOS developers in 2015.  I assume that includes both full time and part time developers.  Developers were paid $14 billion in 2015, but I'm not sure what fraction were from the US.  That's just an average of a few thousand dollars per developer, so I would guess that no more than a few hundred thousand developers in the US earned a full-time wage from iOS in 2015. 

    It's worth mentioning, though, that many other kinds of jobs/industries are aided/enabled by iOS devices/apps, which are used for point of sale (e.g. square), sales info (e.g. real estate), reference (e.g. pilots), resource management (e.g. uber), music (e.g. dj),  communication (e.g. snap), matchmaking, etc. etc.




    StrangeDaysDanielEran
  • Reply 10 of 16
    kamiltonkamilton Posts: 249member
    There's nothing about this data that is negative.  Total net positive for all that didn't exist 10 years ago.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,495member
    So at best that was $25B for Apple. After discounts on iTunes cards, etc I'm wondering how much they actually grossed on apps.
    Apple had been earning nothing from 3rd party Mac software. Post App Store, bringing in ~25B from selling other partners software is a pretty good business. And it's growing 40% yoy. And helping to sell ~$200b premium hardware. 

    volcan said:
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    I'm not suspicious. I just dismiss this sort of claim without citation as pure speculation.
    Public numbers from 2015 by Apple on its job creation site. You could google it, or post online of your scepticism of facts, as if your ignorance is of the same value as well known facts reported by a credible source. 
    That is what citations are for. You usually do a pretty good job of mentioning your source or linking to an article. It is not the reader's job to fact check your work.
    edited March 2017 macplusplus
  • Reply 12 of 16
    Marvin said:
    ireland said:
    I'm highly suspicious of that 1.4 million jobs number. I imagine a number of those so-called jobs are not earning a living wage.
    A "job" does not infer a living wage, in govt terminology or private work force.
    I would say it should match up to a minimum wage job to qualify. This would be about $15k per year. Over 9 years, this would be $135k per developer. If you divide $60b into $135k, that's 444k developers able to be supported full-time at minimum wage directly. It's heavily weighted towards the big franchises but some of them employ thousands of people. On top of paid app revenue is ad revenue, which is around the same amount again so that's enough for 888k developers full-time. Outside of this, there's employment for developing apps for companies that make revenue elsewhere. A bit further out would be marketing/website jobs for supporting apps as well as asset creation like music, artwork and there's cloud infrastructure. 1.4 million jobs worldwide seems like a reasonable figure considering there are 2 million apps in the stores now. Walmart employs 2.2m people directly. 1.4m supported from an ecosystem that has over 1 billion customers isn't an excessive estimate.

    One big one you missed is Apps created as a service.

    - Apps to access your bank accounts or credit cards.
    - Apps for government institutions, city halls, libraries, schools or universities.
    - Retail stores for online shopping.
    - Sports teams.
    - Taxi companies, ride sharing, airlines, transit systems, buses, car rentals.

    All of these require developers to create (some would have a team of developers). They are free Apps that generate no revenue from sales or ads. And they represent a large number of Apps (banks alone would be several thousand Apps).
    DanielEranbrucemcwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 16
    carnegiecarnegie Posts: 319member
    For those who have questions about the 1.4 million jobs number, this is the study that Apple got that number from: http://www.progressivepolicy.org/slider/app-economy-jobs-part-1/

    The "App Economy jobs" which the study refers to include considerably more than jobs directly related to app development and maintenance:

    For this study, a worker is in the App Economy if he or she is in:

    • An IT-related job that uses App Economy skills—the ability to develop, maintain, or support mobile applications. We will call this a “core” app economy job. Core app economy jobs include app developers; software engineers whose work requires knowledge of mobile applications; security engineers who help keep mobile apps safe from being hacked; and help desk workers who support use of mobile apps.

    • A non-IT job (such as human resources, marketing, or sales) that supports core app economy jobs in the same enterprise. We will call this an “indirect” app economy job.
     
    • A job in the local economy that is supported by the income flowing to core and indirect app economy workers. These “spillover” jobs include local retail and restaurant jobs, construction jobs, and all the other necessary services.


    Of the 1.66 million App Economy jobs which the study refers to, it estimates there are about 550,000 in that first category - i.e., which are "core app economy jobs."

    Also, the 1.4 million associated with the iOS ecosystem aren't jobs created or supported solely by the iOS ecosystem. There's considerable overlap between the numbers reported for the various OS ecosystems. For instance, even though the total number of jobs reported is 1.66 million, the Android ecosystem is associated with 1.16 million jobs while the iOS ecosystem is associated with 1.44 million. Much smaller numbers are reported for the Blackberry and Windows Mobile ecosystems. The total is obviously much greater than 1.66 million; that's because many jobs relate to multiple ecosystems (or are supported by jobs relating to multiple ecosystems).

    Lastly, the numbers the study came up with are for the U.S. only and were for December 2015.

    edited March 2017 DanielEranwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 16
    macarenamacarena Posts: 346member
    Only the very naive will believe that this $60B represents all the money made by iOS developers. Obviously, this is just the money received as payments FROM Apple.

    God only knows how many iOS developers work for Uber, and they all make a very decent wage. And neither Uber nor its developers are receiving one dollar from Apple. The global taxi business has been disrupted, and the roots of that disruption lie in the launch of the iOS SDK.

    Same for Facebook. Same for Amazon. Same for Google. Same for literally every single company that makes their apps available for Free, or supported by ads. Globally, almost every single bank, every single stock broker, every single insurance company, all have their own apps, and none of them have made a single dollar from Apple.

    There's a lot of opensource software and tools that now have iOS interfaces.

    There's a massive ecosystem that's sprung up around apps. Testing services, payment gateways, marketing and publicity creators, etc, etc, etc. Not one of these people receive a single dollar from Apple.

    That 1.4 million jobs is an underestimate, if anything!! Massive underestimate.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    xbitxbit Posts: 172member
    Thanks for the job, Apple! It sure beats writing apps for Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. :)
    watto_cobra
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