Yesterday I gave a presentation to Creative Skillset. They’re the Sector Skills Council for digital media which includes TV, film and computer games (and oddly, fashion).
One of the points I made was that we had to follow the market and follow the money. I said that in 2008, we asked for Objective C and Cocoa courses from universities and colleges and, to be honest, we got a half-assed response. A little bit of Cocoa, a little bit of Objective C. And a heap of Android. Because, in the academics esteemed opinions, Android was going to take over. Android was cheaper. It was all the same really. Anyone could, they argued, make a great IOS app if they could make an Android app.
This did not happen. This was not the case. This was not true.
Four years later and look where we are. Universities are not producing graduates with the right quantity or quality to populate our local companies. Academia ignored the industry. And worse – the Department of Employment and Learning ignored the evidence.
And on iPhone versus Android?
For every $1.00 spent on iOS, an equivalent Android developer makes around $0.24. And that number is probably boosted through advertising. And as we know, advertising makes for an amazing user experience.
We can blame a lot of reasons for the disparity. It could be fragmentation of software and hardware. According to TNW, only one device counts for more than 10% market share in Android-land. But really, the software fragmentation is where it hurts. In two weeks, Google will be showing off Android 5.0 at their annual Google io conference. This is while their 4.0 version has managed to get only 7.1% market share. All of the new APIs and features, the user experience improvements and the bug fixes (and security fixes) of 4.0 only reached 7.1% in 7 months. IOS 5 has managed more than 75% penetration since October 2011 (also about 7 months).
Whether or not you like a platform is not important. We should train people to be the best, but we’re just training them to compete. The market demanded IOS, our educators gave them Android.
But we accepted it because when you’re dealing with a starving man, even a shit sandwich starts to look tasty. I’ve given this to the CAL Committee. I’ve spoken to QUB and the University of Ulster. I’ve tried to talk directly to DEL. I gave this presentation directly to Creative Skillset (in front of NI Screen, DCAL, Invest NI, the BBC, Belfast City Council and others). And I’ve had to listen to all of the investment given to film and television in terms of training courses, new facilities and new tax breaks. Dozens of new apprenticeships. Two new sound stages. Tax breaks for high end drama.
They do not seem to understand that software, in it’s myriad forms, already vastly outnumbers the film and television industry. And unlike television (the BBC is currently reducing headcount, remember?), the software industry is currently growing. And it’s growing faster than our universities and colleges are training people.
This is why CoderDojo and similar clubs are important in the North of Ireland. We’re in the boom times and we simply cannot afford to wait for the Minister for Employment and Learning to do something about it. What we’re doing isn’t enough. We know that. But someone has to do something, however small.