The SDK and the success of the App Store have combined to create an emerging professional category, that of iPhone application developer.
According to oDesk, a technology outsourcer billing itself as the “leading marketplace and global IT platform for outsourcing technology jobs to certified, freelance, Apple iPhone developers”, demand has risen for iPhone-related positions from 30 to upwards of 140 jobs per month over the past six months.
While the numbers are drawn from internal oDesk records only, such a steep increase is unlikely to be an isolated phenomenon. Nor is oDesk’s sample pool a limited one, since they have representation in over 100 countries worldwide, including major markets like the U.S. and China.
Though some of the growth followed immediately after the announcement of the iPhone SDK availability, the most significant growth came after last July, when the App Store officially opened for business. No doubt the impressive download numbers that continue to come out of Cupertino are beginning to catch the attention of the wait-and-see corporate crowd.
If the numbers are a good representation of a wider trend, then there are a few things to take away from this rapid growth.
First, it might indicate the specific nature of Apple’s recent educational initiatives. As the marketplace becomes more discerning, accreditation will be more important to potential employers. Considering Apple’s pick for the Apple U job, they are clearly getting serious about academic laurels, and a new field hungry for certification is a good reason to do so.
Second, expect to see a lot more movie and product tie-ins like the Dark Knight’s Jokering-app, and the recently released Bolt-related game from Disney. For companies, hiring freelancers to develop a quick iPhone application is a cheap way to heighten brand awareness.
Finally, expect more conflict over intellectual property. Stringers and freelancers always bring in issues of confidentiatility and proprietary information, and with so many in the fray, the iPint/iBeer situation is unlikely to be just a one-off.
The question now is whether the demand for developers continues to grow, or plateaus and shrinks once the App Store loses its novelty value or competitors like BlackBerry and Google gain ground.