AUSTRALIAN Australian organisations big and small -- and a flotilla of individual entrepreneurs -- are applying 'apps' at world-leading levels, according to research by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
In what is already a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide -- 'apps' is a phrase coined by Apple Inc to describe mobile 'applications' -- designing for the mobile and tablet applications industry has enjoyed a spectacular take-up in Australia.
From broadcast media to start-up companies, the nation is taking advantage of the booming apps market, helping to create more jobs and attracting businesses worth millions of dollars, according to Dr Ben Goldsmith of the CCI.
“The IBISWorld Survey shows that there are 364 apps companies in Australia,” Dr Goldsmith said. “The report reveals that the industry employs 1,500 people, generates $295 million every year and has an annual growth of 177 percent.”
Dr Goldsmith has found these companies create apps in all areas including games, finance, books, education, health and maps, and around 200 of the apps companies are in Sydney.
“The apps industry is spawning a range of business opportunities because it’s something that both companies and individuals can do,” he said. “You don’t have to build a large development studio to be in the business.
“There isn’t a ‘typical’ apps entrepreneur – they come from different backgrounds, such as software development, marketing, design, investment and venture capital. Some are just very gifted kids.”
Dr Goldsmith said the industry was not just about designing and developing applications for mobile phones and tablets – companies have begun to specialise in areas such as mobile marketing, advertising, security, testing users’ experience and developing templates for others to build their own apps.
Using Westpac as an example, Dr Goldsmith said the bank currently has 70 people in their internal apps development team, which isn’t a huge part of their workforce of 36,000. However, they also subcontract a lot of work to outside firms in different stages of the development, including those that specialise in mobile security.
“There are also services that nobody imagined we needed before apps became such an important part of our lives,” Dr Goldsmith said.
“For instance, Apple just bought an Australian developed search engine for apps called ‘Chomp’, and has incorporated the search service into their online store.
“These are examples of how the apps market has created new job opportunities in existing companies, but also for consultants that provide related services.”
MEDIA GETS CREATIVE
At the same time, broadcast media is boosting its chances of survival in the digital age by jumping into the growing apps industry, Dr Goldsmith said.
“Traditional broadcast media are beginning to recognise that the apps industry isn’t competition, but a way of expanding their businesses,” he said.
“As an example, ABC iview started as an internet service for people to watch ABC programs on their computers.
“But they’ve since developed an app so people can watch the programs on wireless devices, and they found out that more people watch the programs on mobile phones or tablets than on computers.”
Foxtel has also expanded into the mobile space very quickly, Dr Goldsmith said.
Their London 2012 Olympics app as well as their new Foxtel Go app that allow subscribers to watch live programs on the move have met with great success.
“Networks have developed ‘companion apps’ that prompt viewers to fill in surveys, answer questions or access extra content while the program is running,” he said.
“So creating apps that cater to the viewers’ needs isn’t just a way to survive – it also encourages conversations between consumers and companies.”
Dr Goldsmith said Sydney is emerging as the centre of the Australian industry with a vibrant start-up culture.
The software company Atlassian, started by two Sydney friends in an apartment, now sells $100 million worth of software a year worldwide and is worth $1 billion.
Another Sydney based company, Gruden, has also expanded internationally and has helped build the app store for China Mobile, he said.
“With the growth of the mobile and tablet market, the apps industry is a diverse and rapidly growing area," Dr Goldsmith said. "So there’s immense potential for Australian companies and I’m optimistic that we’ll rise up to the challenge.”
*The ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation is helping to build a creative Australia through cutting-edge research spanning the creative industries, media and communications, arts, cultural studies, law, information technology, education and business. It is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and is based at QUT, Brisbane.