The Apple business model: Crowdsourcing mobile applications

Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, Debra Howcroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Much to Apple's chagrin, the 'suicide express' at the Foxconn manufacturing complex in China has been widely reported. While outsourcing the manufacture of technology components is neither new nor unique, the external sourcing of digital content is integral to the success of Apple's business model. In 2008, Apple opened up their platform to third-party IT developers, leveraging their expertise for the supply of applications. Apple's rapid dominance of the mobile market led to the emergence of a business model that weaves together Internet-enabled mobile devices with digital content, brought together within a closed proprietary platform or ecosystem. Applying a Global Production Network analysis, this paper reports on fieldwork among Apple mobile application developers in Sweden, the UK, and the US. The analysis shows that although some developers experience success, financial returns remain elusive and many encounter intense pressure to generate and market new products in a competitive and saturated market. Crowdsourcing allows Apple to effectively source development to a global base of software developers, capitalizing on the mass production of digital products while simultaneously managing to sidestep the incurred costs and responsibilities associated with directly employing a high-tech workforce. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-289
Number of pages9
JournalAccounting Forum
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Apple business model
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Global production network
  • IT workforce
  • Mobile applications development and distribution
  • Platform


Dive into the research topics of 'The Apple business model: Crowdsourcing mobile applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this