I just returned from a week attending CSDN 2009 in Beijing, China and thought my fellow mobile developers would be interested in some observations of the mobile app environment in China.
I have been developing iPhone apps in the US since July 2008 as well as teaching iPhone app development online to students for my company, xcelMe.com. To date, I have taught iPhone app development and app marketing to several hundred students from all over the world. I was asked to deliver a keynote presentation and participate in several workshops over the course of the conference on iPhone app development. Over 1000 developers from Beijing, China, surrounding cities and Taiwan, attended this conference.
The iPhone is gaining more interest in China now with its release this October. Most Chinese developers believe there are approximately 2.5 million iPhones and iPod Touch devices in China. Most all of these are jail broken.
The first thing I noticed at the conference was how young the developers were. By the looks, I would say the average age was early 20s. Based on the questions they asked, they are well educated and understand software development. The second thing I noticed was the work ethic these young people have. They know how to work and aren’t afraid of it.
Everything you have heard about the new infrastructure in Beijing and the other major cities is true. Imagine driving around Los Angeles or New York City all day on new streets, with new buildings, cars, buses, subways, sidewalks shops etc. It blew me away.
My iPhone got better reception on the Beijing network than I get here in the US with AT&T. I really don’t like AT&T anymore! See previous posts on LinkedIn and my blog at blog.xcelMe.com. I would imagine that everyone in Beijing doesn’t have access to the Internet at home but they ALL have cell phones. Just by observations, about a quarter of them had smart phones. On the subways, they were using their cell phones like anyone else, playing games, reading, answering email, texting, listening to music and even talking on their cell phones. Can you believe that? They were actually using their cell phones underground in the subway stations and on the subways as well. Ok, maybe they don’t use their cell phones like those of us on AT&T!
For an app to be successful in China, it needs to be cross-cultural. For example, a game is not cultural but Skype would be cultural and not so popular by the Chinese consumer.
Some social networking sites that we use everyday are not available in China. I was amazed how much I missed YouTube and how much I really use it everyday. From embedded website videos on vender applications to videos on how to code something for the iPhone, all the things we take for granted in the US. A developer in China doesn’t have the ability to post on YouTube about their new app or Twitter about it.
I’m not going to comment on the government other than what I mentioned above about its impact on their limited ability to use social networking. I know many have strong opinions.
I was amazed how capitalist and entrepreneurial these developers are. The energy and momentum I felt just walking down the streets was remarkable. These young people seem to have a sense that they could have more than their parents had as opposed to the sense of entitlement many of our young developers have. I have seen so many young US developers starting their jobs expecting a six figure salary, new house, 60” big screen TV, cable, internet and BMW on their first day. It seemed like the many of Chinese developers were just relishing the opportunity of trying to “achieve”. It was very refreshing.
iPhones are currently very expensive for the average Chinese. The cell phone carriers do not subsidize iPhones. Most developers don’t know Objective-C, but many know Java. Topics on Android development and cloud computing were of particular interest to these mobile developers.
The Chinese economy took a hit earlier this year. Their government used a stimulus plan too. Unlike the US stimulus plan, theirs appears to be working. They just reported a 3rd quarter growth of about 8% compared to the US negative or flat growth.
Overall, I was impressed about everything! It is incredible what is occurring in China and it will be interesting to see how mobile apps are used in China. I expect to be amazed by that too.