In the 1900s, the Scissor method prevailed. In 1912, the Western Roll was invented only to be beaten in 1936 by the Straddle which was eclipsed by the radical Fossbury Flop in 1968. In 60 years, high jump techniques changed dramatically. The first efforts relied on natural talent. The next two methods accounted for a sprinter’s center of mass and reduced wasted lift. But the last and most successful method, invented by Fossbury, reinvented the sprint, the jump and the landing. Unlike previous methods, Fossbury Floppers land on their heads – a disruptive change. As a result of this tinkering, the world record height increased by 30% in just 60 years to 2.4 metres.

Today, mobile apps are using the Western Roll – early ways to monetize that have improved since the app store’s launch three years ago. We have some early winners. Below is a chart of the Top Grossing Categories on the iTunes store. You can find the source data with all the categories broken down here.


Games and Entertainment dominate with 75% to 80% of Top 100 slots. Second and third are Music and Photography. If you sum the remaining categories, Business, Weather, Utilities, Health, Productivity, Travel and so on, you’ll see they account for only 10%. Games, despite dominating the top 100 grossing, have an average rank of 45 implying a skew toward the top of the charts. 

Using in app purchase. ads, offers and paid downloads, games have mastered the Western Roll. But games will not continue to dominate the top grossing charts in this way. 

The power of the mobile phone to inform and enable mobile transactions creates a multibillion dollar opportunity. The power of the mobile phone to provide business services to travelers creates a second multibillion dollar opportunity. The power of the mobile phone to change healthcare by gathering data, improving diagnoses and monitoring creates a third multibillion dollar opportunity.

Applications in these markets will challenge games’ hegemony in the top grossing apps. But like the Fossbury Flop, success will demand changing the paradigm and landing on our heads. 


2 thoughts on “High Jump Techniques and Mobile Applications

  1. I wholeheartedly agree the mobile opportunity goes well beyond games, but we might already be further along than that. Assuming you’re using Apple’s data, then your chart only captures app purchases and in-app payments running directly through Apple, meaning it’s not capturing lots of other sources of monetization, e.g., commerce and advertising. For example, $2Bn in eBay market, $700M through Paypal, Groupon, Gilt, Admob, etc. Of course, even if we are further along we still have a long way to go!

  2. Great point, Sean. This is Apple's data, so it does exclude ads and transactions outside the iTunes account system. And the eBay/Paypal data points are on the money. Compared to $150B+ in ecommerce today there is still a huge market to be tapped – I think we agree on that point! Thanks for reading!

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