Just how big is the market for children’s apps?

Our first feature this week is written by Amit and Srvidya of PixelMat Software, whose app “Clay 10” was just featured last App Friday.  They discuss the growing popularity of tablet computers, their adoption in schools and with families, and the implications these devices will have on the mobile software industry. Educational app developers, this is for you.  Maybe your hard work is about to pay off. 

From textbooks to tablets

It started with South Korea’s announcement in July this year – they will banish paper textbooks and replace them with touch tablets across all schools by 2015, especially for the junior grades. Talk about having a technological edge starting at an early age! Home to tech giants Samsung and LG, South Korea may well pull this off. Even in the US, some schools have started including the iPad as the primary tool for dispersing knowledge. Curriculum-based educational apps are going to be a big market.

HP’s fire sale of WebOS tablets proved that people will even stampede, if needed, to get their hands on an affordable device. Many people bought multiple devices so that every family member – old or young – will have their own exclusive tablet for only a hundred bucks each.

The game shifted when the giants of paper-books retailing entered the arena. Amazon has been successfully selling a non-touch e-reader for some years. The last figures made public by the company in Jan 2011 revealed they were selling 115 eBooks for every 100 paper books. Barnes and Noble had a runaway success with the $249 Nook Color which combined an eReader with an Android based multi-touch device. Amazon recently announced $199 color tablets (based on Android) and a monochrome, touch based, e-reader starting at $99. The market just gets better and better for the consumers.

Tablets for everyone, even the toddler

Now, everyone can own a simplified computer, with touch capabilities and access to the internet – starting at $99, without any contracts. Fully operational, basic computers were never this cheap in the past, especially the easy to use ones.

As touch tablets become better, faster and cheaper, the device class will lose the ‘enchanted’ status in a family. From being an expensive, productivity-enhancer meant for the exclusive use of the salaried grown-up, it will transition to a device that even a tiny tot will be allowed to own, smear with baby food and use for listening to interactive rhymes.

Which app store will reign?

This explosive growth of touch phones and touch tablets has led to a competitive jostling among the hardware vendors to get software (i.e., apps) developed for their platforms. Some hardware vendors, including a few big names, ship test devices free to aspiring developers. Amazon is offering a $50 credit to developers if they upload an app to their app store for their new tablet, before November 15.

Developers: it’s time to make some moves

With the floodgates about to open in terms of the number of device owners, it means a bigger market for the developers. The scope and potential of the apps market, especially for children’s apps, has never been better or more promising. Regardless of economical situations, a $0.99 purchase is accessible for many people, especially when parents are buying something for the betterment of their kids – even if it is an app that helps elicit a good laugh from a child.

The one challenge for developers is how to simultaneously address these multiple new markets and technologies, within the usual constraints of limited resources, time and specialized skills covering one technology. It’s time that indies pooled their skills and came together to create rewarding partnerships. Collaborative facilitators like Moms With Apps are well placed to trigger this inflection and spearhead this new budding industry.

5 thoughts on “Just how big is the market for children’s apps?”

  1. I think it’s disingenuous to talk about how affordable a 99 cent app is when most apps are available only on a minimum $500 iPad, as opposed to the less expensive tablet platforms. Of course it’s a chicken and egg scenario – who is going to develop for a platform that doesn’t have a large audience, but who is going to buy a tablet that doesn’t have a robust selection of apps?

  2. This is a great state of app landscape address – what to do? Do you chase the release of the next device or wait for the dust to settle and develop for the most universal platform and know that the prices will fall and more families will purchase? My teenage daughter wants the Nook, my first grader is sneaking my iPad. And not all developers know how to develop for all platforms so it’s constantly a new cost – we would love to meet a developer to help us transition to the Android and others!

    Our app series is correlated to schools and interdisciplinary so we feel like we are ready! I think in the end you still have to ask what is your overall strategy and revenue goal because there will only be a few pure-plays that will end up profitable in the end. We still feel you have to have an integrated approach to your overall strategy …very insightful, thank you!

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