Want to keep your IT career from standing still? Consider mobile. Smartphones — cellular phones that double as powerful computers capable of downloading and running applications — will have 50 percent worldwide growth in 2011 alone, according to market research firm IDC. That’s four times faster than the overall phone market. And tablets have become so popular that they are affecting the PC market’s growth.
People want to turn their feature phones in for a smartphone, or they look for a tablet to let them surf the web, read articles, and view videos with a freedom that laptops don’t offer. Once people have these devices, they bring them to work and then want access to corporate IT resources through their new purchases. And with so many employees using smartphones, corporations want to take advantage of the new communications tool.
There’s just one problem: there’s not enough knowledgeable talent to satisfy corporation needs. A computer technology degree and relevant training and experience gives an IT worker a strong bargaining chip for employers.
One reason mobile devices are so popular is their ability to run software applications. Venture capital firms are putting hundreds of millions into funds for companies developing apps.
When it comes to using smartphones, corporations face a problem: the touch screen smartphone technology is only a few years old and it changes rapidly. Where once there was only Apple’s iPhone, now Google Android use could grow to nearly 50 percent of the market share, if market research firm Gartner is correct in its projections. And both Gartner and IDC expect Microsoft Windows Phone 7 to grow rapidly now that Nokia has decided to use the operating system on its smartphones.
No one knows for certain what the market will look like, which is why having experience in more than one leading smartphone platform will give IT workers an employment edge. Luckily, learning mobile device programming doesn’t mean people must toss their computer programming degrees out the window. Apple iOS, the operating system for the iPhone and iPad, uses Objective C, which is related to C and C++. Android developers write their apps in a variation of Java. Windows Phone 7 uses extensions of common Microsoft programming tools. There are books and web sites with resources for learning how to program mobile devices.
However, anyone interested in the mobile space should move quickly. Wait too long and corporations will have developed in-house expertise and will be less dependent on finding new talent. But until then, demand for mobile developers is hot, and the salaries aren’t too shabby, either, with the most common salary range being $75,000 to $100,000.