There are multiple different ways to assess the iPhone's impact on the software community--e.g., the massive catalog of applications available via the App Store, the 1.5 billion-plus application downloads or the overwhelming number of new developers entering the space--and now you can add book sales to the list. Citing U.S. bookseller point-of-sale data compiled by Nielsen Bookscan, O'Reilly Radar reports that computer book sales are in steep decline--overall, close to 600,000 fewer computer books sold in the first six months of 2009 than over the same period a year ago, the sharpest downturn since the fall of 2001. Among 121 established categories, only eight experienced sales increases during the first half of this year, including Mac Programming, Mobile Programming and Objective-C, the language used to develop iPhone apps. By contrast, subjects including Windows Consumer, Web Page Creation and Mac OS suffered the biggest drops in unit sales for the period.
"The big success story among programming languages is Objective-C, which has grown from a small (low unit sales) language into a large (high units sales) language," O'Reilly's Mike Hendrickson writes. "iPhone and Mac development is fueling this growth. After Objective C, PHP and Actionscript are the only languages with more unit sales in 2009 than in 2008." Developers looking to write apps for the iPhone have few alternatives but to learn Objective-C, of course, but prior to the introduction of the App Store, programmers expressed little interest in the language at all. According to software assessment and tracking firm TIOBE Software's Programming Community Index for July 2009, Objective-C is now the 21st most popular programming language--14 months earlier, it ranked only 38th on the list. Moreover, rabid interest in iPhone has significantly deepened the pool of qualified Mac developers--native Mac applications require identical developmental tools and similar frameworks to those necessary for building iPhone and iPod touch apps, further underscoring the App Store's value to Apple's future.
Don't expect the influx of new iPhone developers to dwindle anytime soon, at least not as long as gold-rush success stories like Social Gaming Network continue to make headlines. TechCrunch reports the gaming startup's iPhone dogfight title F.A.ST.-Fleet Air Superiority Training has already generated more than $1 million in revenues since launching in early June, pulling in as much as $60,000 per day. The game, which enables players to compete head-to-head with opponents across the world via WiFi, was introduced at a cost of $9.99, but SGN has since tinkered with the price point and now sells F.A.S.T. for $1.99 per download--TechCrunch notes that an upcoming upgrade will offer gamers the opportunity to purchase premium weapons and jets, adding that SGN will also license the basic platform engine they created to build the game to other developers. Objective-C may require developers to learn a new language, but a million in cold, hard cash is a message that anyone can understand. -Jason
P.S. Be sure to visit the FierceDeveloper website later today for live coverage from the Verizon Developer Community Conference. For a preview of the event, click here.