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The Market

The electronic online mobile game market is exploding. Especially with the advent of the iPhone, geeky entrepreneurs are emerging from closets all around the world. Ge Wang is a good example. An assistant professor at Stanford, Wang was convinced by a friend who ran two successful high-tech companies before dropping out of the corporate world, to put up some seed money and start a company called Smule.

Smule created four applications priced at a buck each ... a virtual lighter, a virtual firecracker, a voice changer that can make you sound like Darth Vader or an elf on helium, and program that turns the iPhone into an electronic wind instrument. The last application, released in November 2008, racked up 400,000 downloads in less than a month. Smule, which originally set a goal of taking in $100,000 in revenue in 2008, made closer to $1 million.

Smule is riding the latest phenomenon to sweep across the tech industry. Thousands of developers are writing applications for the iPhone and selling them through Apple's App Store. Apple launched the App Store in July 2008 and has delivered more than 300 million downloads of more than 10,000 applications. Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, said they have never seen anything like it.

Half the fun of owning an iPhone is trying out all the cool new apps you can put on it, and developers are cranking them out at a feverish pace. Pangea Software has created several hit games for the iPhone.The owner has been writing games for Apple computers for 21 years and says he's never seen anything like the iPhone application phenomenon, which this year will deliver $5 million in revenue for Pangea.

The surge of mobile computing using cell phones and PDAs is making millionaires out of savvy techie geeks. Not only with games but with all mobile applications. The mobile-computing space looks a bit like the early days of personal computers, when different operating systems were competing to be king. A half-dozen smartphone platforms compete in the market, including Symbian (used by Nokia), Windows Mobile, the BlackBerry and Google's Android. Yet another is on the way from Palm, maker of the Palm Pilot and the Palm Treo.

Where things will be a year from now is anyone's guess. But for now, the little guys are happy to be riding on Apple's coattails.

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