Is it impossible to succeed in a crowded software market?

Written on June 12, 2011

With the emergence of low-cost publishing solutions in mobile app stores, and a reduction in the cost of launching and maintaining a ¬†bootstrapped software application online, the software market has become crowded in a number of niche areas, and that has had a detrimental effect on the industry as a whole. The concept of ‘first in wins’ in regards to launching a product has meant that skilled software developers are choosing not to enter niche markets poised for reform simply because the market is crowded – and that is detrimental for both the industry and for consumers.

The idea that it is impossible to succeed in a crowded software market, or that it is simply not worth the effort is fundamentally incorrect: the potential for instigating a transformation in any niche is always present, and should never be overlooked. If developers can create a product which is better than anything else out there – the chances are it will be hugely successful. The only prerequisite for success in software is that the developer creates a product better than anything else available – and that is something which a lot of developers seem to be forgetting. This again stems back to the concept that ‘ideas are worthless’, in the software industry execution is everything, and if you can execute, your product can succeed. Perhaps the most crowded niche in the mobile application arena at the moment is photo sharing and editing software: Instagram, Hipstamatic and the like. Sure, this market appears to be saturated from the outside, but if a developer can create something which is fundamentally better than the competition, it can easily succeed. Users are fickle, and will change applications without a second thought if ¬†product comes along which is better than the rest.

Furthermore, price isn’t everything in the software market: simply because a competitor is charging a specific price does not mean you have to match it – assuming you have a superior product. Tweetbot just that, charging $1.99 for a Twitter client when the official Twitter app is available for free – and they are competing with a billion dollar company. Particularly in the mobile applications market, the difference between free and a dollar or two is nothing for consumers who have App Store accounts linked directly to their credit card: crucially, it still requires just one button press to purchase the product, eliminating the psychological barrier present in desktop software whereby customers have to go through an additional process to purchase rather than download a free application.

As a software developer, it is vital not to ignore crowded software markets: they can often provide the best chance of success. It is already clear that consumers are interested in the market, meaning that success is a simple matter of creating an application superior to the competion: meritocracy at its best.

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  • Veen

    This actually happened to me recently: I was trying to hire a developer to create an iPhone todo list application, and he refused for this reason: the market was supposedly to crowded for the product to succeed, so he refused to develop it.

  • Atrix

    I think the price of an application is a more important issue than you suggest: personally if there was a free application or a $2 application available which appeared to do the same thing, I would buy the free one.

    • Paulkkel2

      Really? For me it’s the opposite. I’ll always buy a paid application where possible on the App Store. There are way to many crappy free applications which crash and show ads which are not mentioned in the description..

  • Jjjj

    On an unrelated note, how much does it really cost to develop and launch a basic iPhone game?