TechCrunch reports a survey of iPhone application developers, which makes very interesting reading of some of the realities of participating in Apple's generative ecosystem.
On average developers are estimated to get 15 times their initial investment back, but it is also stated that the respondents may indeed not have calculated all the time sunk into their application development. Furthermore, removing the top-10% most successful applications show the common reality for most developers with an average of 44 applications sold pr day and with 90% of applications selling less than 100,000 copies.
The data shows what of course could be assumed, namely that the combination of low entry costs for developers and the relatively modular and limited scale of the development effort means that individuals and very small companies may not get a significant reward for all the hours they spend developing iPhone applications. In this sense, the ecosystem can in Benkler's terms be characterised just as much as social production as it is traditional market-based economic production. This will only be further strengthened when the number of applications grow to an estimated 2 million and other ecosystems catch up, for example the Google Android marketplace.
The interesting question will be if this successful ecosystem will continue to be so when it in reality for most developers would be an instrument for crowd sourcing of applications and where the remuneration for individuals will not be the primary driver for innovation. The survey also shows that while there can be much to gain financially from being successful in this mobile gold rush then it is a gold rush as all the others. This implies that selling pick-axes and showels to gold diggers will be much more profitable and risk-free than being a gold digger. Furthermore, in this particular case, Apple is clearly hell-bent on being the only purveyor of such implements to prospectors, which the ongoing Flash-on-iPhone-and-iPad discussion demonstrates.