Wil Wheaton has an interesting blog post about “Get Excited and Just Make Things”. In it, he outlines the changes that have come courtesy of the Internet that make it possible for individual people or small teams to build and distribute “things” (either electronic or physical) in way that couldn’t be done even just a few years ago. While “Big Business” still has an upper hand through the traditional channels, there are still plenty of opportunities for “the little guy” to succeed and thrive. As Wil points out, no longer do you have to worry about distribution, shelf space, etc. For physical objects, you still have to deal with manufacturing (even if it is just assembling the “thing” at your kitchen table), but depending on the scale or scope of what you are doing, building a physical object isn’t necessarily a large hurdle. There are still issues around scaling up, if you have a desire for that, but there is typically the option to sell your idea to someone bigger, and let them handle the issues of scale.
Building apps for smartphones, tablets and MacOS, is an example of where you can “get excited and make things”. Apple, Google et. al. offer some kind of virtual storefront for people who build apps for these different platforms. What you have to concentrate on, as a developer, is building the thing and building the product awareness (aka marketing). But, Apple or Google who whoever will take care of distribution, installation and payments. You don’t have to become a VISA/MasterCard/Amex merchant, set up (or find a hosting service) for your site, deal with install, etc. You don’t have to deal with people who use a credit card, take your product and then dispute the charge, leaving you on the hook. You don’t have to figure out why your app won’t install on the user’s device. Someone else does all that, and the price you pay is some percentage of the MSRP. Believe me, after having done the “distribute software via CD” thing a few times, even 30% is worth the price.
As evidenced by the number of apps on the iTunes App Store (500,000 and climbing), plenty of people are scratching an itch. They are getting excited and making things. Here’s hoping more people follow Wil’s advice.