Ge Wang never dreamed of becoming a high-tech Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He’s an assistant professor at Stanford, a specialist in computer science and music whose biggest passion has been organizing nerdy “laptop orchestras” comprising 20 people each “playing” a notebook computer. But last summer his friend Jeff Smith—who’d run two successful high-tech companies before dropping out of the corporate world to take music classes at Stanford—talked Wang into trying to create applications for Apple’s iPhone. Smith and two others put up some seed money, and Wang, 31, set to work with a handful of engineers. They called the company Smule, and created four applications, priced at a buck apiece. There’s a virtual lighter, a virtual firecracker, a voice changer that can make you sound like anything from Darth Vader or an elf on helium, and the big winner of the bunch—a program called Ocarina that turns the iPhone into an electronic wind instrument. Released in November, Ocarina racked up 400,000 downloads in less than a month. Smule, which originally set a goal of taking in $100,000 in revenue this year, instead will end up making closer to $1 million. “It’s amazing,” Smith says. “The business is already profitable.”
Wang and Smith are riding the latest phenomenon to sweep across the tech industry. Thousands of people are writing applications for the iPhone and selling them through Apple’s App Store, which is part of the iTunes online market. Apple launched the App Store in July and has already delivered more than 300 million downloads of more than 10,000 applications (some choice samples: a free Bloomberg stock-market terminal, and a 99-cent “iBeer” that sloshes around when you tilt the phone). “We’ve never seen anything like this in our careers,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs told Wall Street analysts on an earnings conference call in October.
Apple introduced the first iPhone in June 2007 and followed up in July of this year with a 3G model that offers faster data-transfer speeds. Apple has sold 13 million iPhones, and in the third quarter of this year sold more units than Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry. In terms of revenue, Apple claims now to be the third-biggest mobile-phone maker in the world, after Nokia and Samsung. – newsweek
They don’t support flash, so does that mean you can’t watch YouTube videos with an iPhone?