September 1st, 2010
04:51 AM GMT
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Simon Lui likes to be self-sufficient. He says, "If I need it, I develop it."  The 28-year old computer science instructor needed faster information about the MTR (Hong Kong's subway) so he simply designed an app for his iPod Touch.

The app - called ecMTR - gave him data on each stop, the fares and the arrival time of the next train.  Turns out other commuters wanted the same information and downloaded his 99 cent app more than 35,000 times.(The MTR itself recently asked Liu to disable his app so it could launch its own official MTR app. Lui says he didn't fight the request and obliged – although he still thinks his app is better.

Before disabling that app, Lui managed to pocket US$24,255 from all the downloads. (Apple has a 30/70 policy with app developers. Apple gets 30 percent of revenue while the developer pockets 70 percent.) In the past two years, Liu has designed six more paid apps from music games to war games netting him nearly US$40,000.

According to the Financial Times, app downloads could become the principal income driver for cell phone providers in developed countries over the next three years. That may not come entirely as a surprise when you look at the burgeoning marketplace of the apps. At last count, Apple's app store has 250,000 offerings.

Lui is a full-time computer science instructor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He creates apps in his free time. His most popular is TinHa War (roughly translated to "World in Peace.") It's a war game from the 1980's that kids used to play on paper. Liu spent six months designing TinHa War, writing code for a few hours every night after work.  In the four months it's been available for downloads, Lui has made US$12,500 on this app alone.

So can anyone be an app developer? Lui says you need a combination of persistence and skill. Here's his advice:

1) Have a clear idea of what you want to create

2) Learn Objective C code(this is the code needed for iPhone, iPod and iPad apps) Although Lui describes the code as difficult to learn he taught himself the language by using Stanford University tutorials online, found here:

3) Keep practicing the code.  You'll get better by trial and error.

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. bill

    may i design programme on andriod system

    September 1, 2010 at 8:55 am |
  2. RegVeg

    I should've studied software engineering! I was going to major in it, and could've made quick money like this guy, but in those days nobody saw the IT revolution coming. Articles like this make me regret my choice of going mechanical.

    September 1, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  3. Jake Morrow

    Think Andrew will hire me?

    September 1, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  4. Amed

    @RegVeg Hey its never too late software development is actually quite easy once your know your first language.

    The syntax changes from language to language but the concepts remain the same throughout.

    All you need is a good book to guide you and then its just a matter of practice like the guy said

    September 1, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  5. Adebayo

    Here's my dream being lived by Liu. Only a matter of time...only drawback is objective C won't run on windows based system n Mac's far from my radar.

    September 1, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  6. Mabuya

    @RegVeg I taught myself QBasic and Visual Basic while I was doing Grade 9. You can also teach yourself and if I am not mistaken, a lot of the best developers and graphics animators are self-taught.

    September 1, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  7. Professor

    RegVeg, it is NEVER too late. I am a financial guy, that left before the collapse. I am now a teacher and love it. Just got together a group of guys and we are now going into this 'EduApps' thing full force. Life is too short for regrets. You can always re-invent / reboot yourself. CTRL-ALT-RESET :)

    September 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  8. MrLonely

    nice man... hope i can be like you one day.. =D

    September 1, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
  9. Xm

    No need to blame your majority at school. I am also a Mechanical engineer (on material science). I was pretty good at C language in 1990's. Actually, lots of mechanical engineer students learn this language. If know C, you need only a compiler to compile it into Objective C.
    Mechanical engineer can do (/easy to learn) things that IT engineer does. But most of IT engineer can not do mechanical engineer's job. :)

    September 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  10. CptRamius

    Yes, is too short. You've got to find what you love and stay hungry and foolish.

    September 2, 2010 at 5:07 am |
  11. Mr. T

    Never mind, My background is Math, Later, I switched by doing a post grand in computer science, now I am a respected software developer and an instructor at a university while pursuing PhD in software engineering


    September 7, 2010 at 11:56 am |
  12. Teresa Balin

    I am going to jump on this bandwagon!

    September 10, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  13. nice!

    @CptRamius I know that line ("stay hungry, stay foolish")! It's from steve job's commencement speech to stanford. Well put!

    December 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
  14. NYC fitness events

    Running a a platform like Apples must be expensive. "(Apple has a 30/70 policy with app developers. Apple gets 30 percent of revenue while the developer pockets 70 percent.) " Apple couldn't do 15%? Lui you are inspiring!

    February 18, 2014 at 3:10 am |

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