Thanks to the incredible popularity of its devices, Apple may have one of the strongest software ecosystems out there, if not the strongest. If you're a developer and you're looking to strike it rich, there are few ecosystems that can compare.
In reality, of course, your chances of hitting the jackpot in the App Store are probably about as high as winning a lottery. The competition is fierce and most developers don't see their apps don't fly off the shelves. While that doesn't mean developers will flee Apple's ecosystem any time soon, it does pose a risk for Apple, who must look for new ways to keep developers on its side.
At WWDC this week, Apple may have found a way to do just that: China.
As reported by AllThingsDigital's John Paczkowski, Apple is increasingly earning big bucks in the world's most populous nation. In the company's last fiscal quarter, it counted $7.9bn in revenue from China, a three-fold year-over-year increase, and in the first half of the year, it has already produced nearly as much revenue from China as it did in all of 2011.
With the number of Chinese consumers calling themselves Apple customers rapidly growing, it's no surprise that Apple used WWDC to point out new software features geared for the Chinese market. These include Baidu search in Safari, as well as Siri support for Mandarin and Cantonese.
And it's no surprise that Apple wants developers to get involved. During his presentation, Apple VP Craig Federighi told WWDC attendees, "The Mac has been growing fantastically well in China" and issued a challenge to developers: "Get your apps ready for China."
Of course, that's probably easier said than done. China is a huge opportunity to be sure, but for many developers, tapping into the market will be difficult. There are obvious language and cultural barriers, and as we've seen with web-based services, when something gets popular in the United States and Europe, chances are entrepreneurs in China will build a homegrown clone for the Chinese market.
With this in mind, the Chinese opportunity for Apple developers will probably look like all the other Apple ecosystem opportunities: Apple will make incredible amounts of money, a few developers will make a lot of money and most developers will watch in awe.