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A million downloads: Free Stanford course on creating iPhone apps takes off at a furious pace

L.A. Cicero Alex Aybes

Apple software engineer Alex Aybes teaches a session of Stanford's iPhone Application Development course.

L.A. Cicero students in iPhone course

Teaching Assistant Paul Salzman, left, works with graduate students Michael Gao and Jon Peterson after a class meeting.

Free videos of Stanford's wildly popular course on creating applications for the iPhone and iPod touch have now been downloaded a remarkable million times from Stanford's site on iTunes U in the iTunes Store.

And all of the million downloads have come in just seven weeks, since the course began on April 1.

The way the downloads have taken off like a rocket makes the iPhone Application Programming videos the fastest to reach the 1 million milestone in the history of iTunes U, which hosts offerings from hundreds of colleges and universities around the world.

"This is the fastest any course on iTunes U has reached one million downloads," said Jason Ediger, Apple's director of iTunes U and Mobile Learning. "iTunes U has proven to be a very effective and popular way to share this course with anyone interested in creating iPhone apps."

"The success of the course has come from the trifecta of Stanford University, Apple and the iPhone OS," said Brent Izutsu, the university's manager of Stanford on iTunes U.

The App Store offers more than 35,000 different apps, each of which can be easily downloaded from the Apple App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at http://www.itunes.com/appstore.

"It's an easy way for us to put an app out there," said Jon Peterson, an electrical engineering student attending the computer science class with a couple of friends hoping to hit the jackpot with a popular application. He was cryptic about the nature of their business plan, conceding only that it involves musical instruments.

"My dream is to be able to hit it big and just keep doing it," Peterson said.

For students and other budding entrepreneurs, the App Store offers a business opportunity for the little guy, said Troy Brant, the Stanford teaching assistant for iPhone Application Programming. "They get immediate access to millions of people," he said. Feedback from a variety of users arrives almost immediately, creating a test bed that did not exist previously.

"A lot of the students here have a lot of really crazy, off-the-wall ideas" that may or may not succeed, Brant said in a conversation after class last week. Students are striving to create the perfect game, productivity app, billing software or Stanford-specific app, such as one that displays the real-time location of all emergency responders on campus.

Completion of the course, first taught in the fall quarter, carries a certain cachet. Brant said he's received "a ton of requests" from on-campus managers and outside companies seeking to connect with class members. Some students have become instant consultants.

Apple engineers teach the live version of the course, CS193P, to Stanford students in a small auditorium in Stanford's Quad. The rest of the world can take the course online for free by downloading videos of all the class lectures and the slides used by instructors. Only Stanford students enrolled in the classroom version of iPhone Application Programming will receive credit for the course, however.

The Computer Science Department is part of the Stanford School of Engineering.

The videos and slides are available at http://itunes.stanford.edu.