"I was around in the '90s when the first browser came out, and this feels like that," says Daniel Odio, a cofounder of PointAbout, an app developer in Washington. "It feels like there's a lot of innovation happening now. I think we're only in the first half of the first inning."
So far, the growth in apps compares favorably with the PC revolution of the 1980s. Although software programs were more expensive than today's apps, they generated only about one-ninth the revenue ($340 million in today's dollars versus $3 billion), according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Of course, the PC software industry kept growing. By 1995, sales were 20 times bigger ($3.6 billion in today's dollars). If apps can match that pace, they will lift the economy.
"My reason for optimism as to [apps'] impact on the economy is related to the economy of scale," says Thomas Way, a computer scientist at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "If 3.5 million iPad apps can be sold in about a week, I think that is a very positive indication of the depth and ability of the mobile app market to play a strong part in an economic recovery."