The iPad Developer Gold Rush is On, But Will it Pan Out?

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Are you making an iPad app? If the answer is yes, you’re definitely not alone. A recent report by Flurry Analytics, a firm which conducts research on mobile tech and trends, found that the number of new projects being developed for the iPhone (and now for the iPad, too) nearly tripled after Apple’s announcement of the new device.

The information is based on the number of developers who are integrating Flurry analytics into their iPhone OS-based apps, a number which increased threefold to nearly 1,800 applications in January, versus less than 600 in December. It’s a difference that’s too great to be accounted for by chance alone, and it’s the largest surge ever measured in the history of Flurry’s stat tracking.

The surge also helped Apple reinforce the dominance of its App Store versus its most significant competitor, the Google Android market. In December, new Android projects rose sharply, while new iPhone projects experienced the largest dip yet seen since the introduction of Google’s Android developer API. The January numbers more than reversed that trend, however.

So while there’s no denying that the gold rush is on for iPad development, there does remain the question of whether or not said gold rush will actually pay off for developers. Apple must be pleased as punch, because it sells its devices on the back of content, a big chunk of which for the iPad and iPhone platform comes from the App Store. But developers hoping to cash in and repeat some of the early successes of the App Store following its initial launch may be sorely disappointed when March comes around.

Yes, Apple will be expanding the customer base of the App Store by a significant margin, even if sales don’t meet the ambitious expectations the company seems to have for the device. But how much of that will translate into people willing to pay for new apps for their new devices? We already know that free app downloads exceed paid ones by a pretty wide margin. And there’s a very good chance that many of the iPad’s early adopters will be owners of iPhones and iPod touches. It’s entirely possible that this group will stick with the purchases they’ve already made, and be wary of making new ones without a solid demonstration of added value from iPad-specific apps.

The landscape is also very different this time around. There are many more established players on the scene now, including ones that ensconced themselves in consumers’ hearts after coming out of nowhere when the App Store initially launched. ngmoco is a good example of one of these. The existence of these iPhone stars will likely make iPad app downloading less of a merit-based system than it was in the frontier days of the App Store’s origin.

Is it a good idea to work on your iPad development skills (sub required)? Probably. Larger companies and brands will no doubt be looking to farm out app development down the road. Should you expect to hear about or experience the same kind of overnight success stories that accompanied the App Store’s launch? I’d say not. Lightning doesn’t often strike twice, and this is one instance where that old maxim’s likely to be proven true.

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