Planet Of The Apps

Apps take the spotlight

By Scott Budman
|  Tuesday, Sep 14, 2010  |  Updated 8:00 AM PDT
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Where It's App

Scott Budman

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Welcome to App Nation.

It's been a state of mind for a couple of years and now, it's a show of its own.

San Francisco is playing host to the first App Nation convention, a way for app makers, developers and funders to show off the very latest in mobile wares.

Let's face it:  Apps are everywhere. It's the way we find our way around, play games, order food and check our social networks.  Laptops? So last year. Talking on the phone? Also outdated. At this show, there are plenty of phones. But the phones, like the iPads, are cradled in hands, and stroked.

From small companies, like Clr Touch, whose CEO Mark Spates says we're now living in "the synthetic society, where a version of everything is always with you," to big companies like Intel, apps are where the action is.  Our economy is struggling, and that hinders startups, which limits new jobs. But under the typical startup radar, app companies are sprouting up all over the place.  They don't need much in the way of overhead, but get a hit "Angry Birds" - type app in your portfolio, and you're off and running, with cash coming in nonstop.

Part of the lure of apps is that they can solve problems quickly. The genius of Silicon Valley has always been -- for me, at least -- that we can find ways to use technology to solve problems.  It's been that way since before the transistor and it's going to be that way for a long time. Big ideas, though, typically require a lot of time, and a lot of capitol. An app requires neither. Just a good idea, some code and Apple or Google's approval.

The challenge?  It's tough to build a company when you're doing it 99 cents at a time. Not a lot of job creation, unless you get a lot of funding -- and VCs. Wwhile dipping their toes into app nation, they are yet to see a Netscape or Yahoo-like return on their investment.  As far as an app company going public? Well, that might be a while.

But hope is a big part of all this, and app makers see pots of gold in their future. Yes, it's hard to get rich with apps, but as another CEO told me, "monetizing this is an issue, but at least we get some chips at the table with apps."  Now, the challenge is to cash in some of those chips.

Scott is always looking for cool apps. You can find him on Twitter:  @scottbudman

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