Mobile developers ride 'app economy' gravy train

Demand for iPad, iPhone, and Android apps has created nearly half a million jobs for developers of mobile and social apps

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Jealous of Apple's gargantuan revenues lately? It recently raked in $13.1 billion in quarterly profits, thanks in no small part to the company's popular iPad and iPhone.

You too can make money off the proliferation of these gadgets, a study released this week reveals. A whole host of Americans are piggybacking their way into gainful employment via the so-called app economy, which encompasses apps for mobile devices and social media.

Where those jobs can be found is a surprise: The New York metropolitan area leads in app-economy jobs, followed by the San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., and Seattle regions. Unsurprisingly, the types of applications range broadly, including voice recognition, news delivery, and games.

The app economy is creating burgeoning job opportunities -- and has helped stem job loss -- for developers, designers, marketers, and others, according to the study. Author Michael Mandel, of the South Mountain Economics consulting firm, says the app economy "now is responsible for roughly 466,000 jobs in the United States, up from zero in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced."

"The incredibly rapid rise of smartphones, tablets, and social media and the applications that run on them is perhaps the biggest economic and technological phenomenon today. Almost a million apps have been created for the iPhone, iPad, and Android alone, greatly augmenting the usefulness of mobile devices," the report states. Companies such as Google, Facebook, Electronic Arts, AT&T, Apple, and also benefit, by provisioning application developers and the app sales and delivery infrastructure. (Also reaping rewards: some high-tech journalists!)

But it's unclear how broadly spread the rewards are for developers in the app economy. For in-house developers, mobile skills are in high demand. But for developers hoping to strike it rich by creating the next Angry Birds, it's a risky bet. Some are surely making enough to pay the mortgage, but others probably don't make enough to buy their next iPhone. Stats on app store earnings are hard to come by, but BlackBerry maker Research in Motion has said that about 13 percent of BlackBerry application developers earn more than $100,000 building for that not very popular platform.

Still, given all the bad news we've had in the job market in the past few years, including massive layoffs in the computer industry itself, it's great that mobile devices and social media are leading to employment opportunities. And if Microsoft can get its upcoming Windows 8 OS flying high, which emphasizes tablet use, the app-economy pie could grow even larger.

This story, "Mobile developers ride 'app economy' gravy train," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.