Mobile App Wars: Survey Finds Android, iPad Developer Interest High

Interest among mobile application developers in Apple's iPad, due to ship Saturday, has waned slightly, allowing it and the iPhone to fall behind the Android platform -- but the Apple devices are still well ahead of every other mobile platform by a healthy margin.

In a survey of 1,028 developers, Appcelerator, developer of a platform for rapidly creating native mobile, desktop, and iPad applications using Web technologies, found Android is the most popular platform, with 86 percent of developers surveyed saying they are interested in writing apps for the open source operating system within the next year.

The iPhone/iPad came in second, slipping from 90 percent interest in writing an app for it in the January survey to 80 percent now, hardly a fatal loss. Appcelerator suggested that the dip in interest came about thanks to Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) finally introducing the device after months of speculation, and developers were disappointed to see a lack of a camera and multitasking.

Mobile Apps for iPhone, iPad Still Strong

"That has caused some dampening in enthusiasm, but the way we're looking at it here, much like Apple's stock before an announcement, there is wild speculation and enthusiasm. Then after the announcement comes out, reality sets in. If 90 percent of our developers in January are saying I'm going to build an app, then 80 percent say I'm going to build an app after it comes out, there isn't anywhere to go but down," said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing for Appcelerator.

Both Android and iPhone are well ahead of the pack. Developer interest in Research in Motion's BlackBerry came in at 43 percent and Windows Phone was 34 percent. However, both of those represent massive jumps: In January, developer interest in BlackBerry and Windows Phone was 21 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

Microsoft Windows Mobile Apps -- A Time of Rebirth

Schwarzhoff attributed their recoveries to major improvements in their respective platforms. Microsoft rolled out a whole new Windows Mobile OS -- Windows Phone 7 Series -- that breaks with the old with a sizable leap forward in design and features, while RIM's improvements are been more incremental. Both are piquing developer interest.

"As developers see a capability to tap into an established user base, they jump. Developers are keying in on new capabilities in the BlackBerry that would rival other tier-one platforms and they are interested," he told InternetNews.com. He called Windows Phone 7 a "gutsy move, starting from scratch, to break those connections with those old apps."

Palm Handhelds, Palm Apps in Trouble

Some platforms are in serious trouble. Palm's webOS, which powers the Pre and Pixi phones, fell from 17 percent interest in January to 14 percent in March. Symbian came in at just 16 percent and Meego, the new joint effort by Nokia and Intel, came in at 12 percent.

Making an inauspicious start, the Amazon Kindle, surveyed for the first time, has only 12 percent of surveyed developers claiming any level of interest. With the arrival of brilliant color tablets this year from Apple and a host of wanna-bes, some observers have begun writing the obituary for Amazon's black and white e-reader. One Gizmodo author summed up his sentiment with the comment: "I fell in love with the Kindle last year, but I think you're a fool to buy one now…"

The problem for every platform except iPhone and Android is the same that bedevils non-Windows platforms: limited time, resources, money and talent. "From our specific feedback, aside from the survey, what basically happens in 8 out of 10 cases, a developer new to the smartphone game says, 'I'm going to make my iPhone app first, and if I have time I'll do Android.' What eventually happens is 'if I have time' starts competing with other priorities," said Schwarzhoff.

An iPhone app typically costs between $30,000 and $100,000 and three to six months to make, which is about the same for Android. The skills required are different enough that most developers only specialize in one platform, which means whole teams are needed for each platform -- the same problem on desktop PCs.

Appcelerator is the developer of a mobile new application development platform called Titanium 1.0, which lets Web developers create native iPhone, Android, PC, Mac and Linux applications using JavaScript, HTML and CSS. On April 5, two days after the iPad launch, it will introduce Tablet SDK, which can create native iPad software.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


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