How Angry Birds and other apps created nearly half a million jobs

Manufacturing jobs are in trouble, but a new report has talked up the job-creating potential of apps for mobile devices and social networks.



Popular apps like Angry Birds, Flight Control and Fruit Ninja are surfing a job-creating wave, according to research from US policy think tank TechNet.

The organisation’s study, “Where the jobs are: the app economy”, found that since the arrival of the iPhone in 2007, 466,000 app-related jobs have been created in the USA alone.

Artwork from Flight Control

The study reaches that figure thanks in part to a broad definition of the app economy, which it says we can think of as a collection of interlocking innovative ecosystems. Each ecosystem consists of a core company, which creates and maintains a platform and an app marketplace, plus small and large companies that produce apps and/or mobile devices for that platform.”

That definition means TechNet counts apps running inside Facebook as well as on mobile devices. The study counted jobs involved directly in software development for apps, but also counts jobs related to app development at infrastructure companies, phone companies and other organisations that have added staff to cope with demand caused by consumers' acquisition of apps.

The study is also quite optimistic, assuming that “app economy job generates another 0.5 jobs in the rest of the economy” to reach the figure of 466,000.

Even so, anything that can create a new industry with half a million jobs in five years is worth celebrating.

It is also worth pointing out that there’s almost certainly an app economy in Australia. Flight Control and Fruit Ninja are both Australian products. Angry Birds is Finnish, which shows the app economy is a global phenomenon too.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing of all is that Apple founder Steve Jobs had to be talked into opening the iPhone to app developers. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs says Apple’s board collectively thought Apps were a great idea and overruled Jobs’ objections to letting software developers get their grubby hands on the iPhone.

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