Mobile App Developers Scramble to Cash In On Tablet Revolution

The explosion of new tablet PCs hitting the market this year is sparking something of a Gold Rush in a mobile application development world that was once dominated almost exclusively by Apple's ubiquitous iPhone.

Now, with more than 80 new and mostly Android-based tablets unveiled during this month's Consumer Electronics Show, developers have more choices than ever and, according to a new survey from IDC and Appcelerator, enterprises' growing infatuation with mobile devices will have the average developer writing apps for four different devices at a time.

The survey, conducted over a three-day span earlier this month, queried more than 2,200 mobile app developers to better understand what platforms and devices they're working on and how they're attempting to prioritize their efforts in the initial stages of this unprecedented expansion -- and fragmentation -- of the mobile device market.

The first and perhaps most significant revelation was the general consensus that Android-powered smartphones have become just as important and profitable as the iPhone. And, Android tablets are rapidly narrowing the gap on the iPad in the eyes of most mobile developers.

" As these trends unfold, it is also becoming clear that the days of mobile app experimentation are over," the report said. "This year, developers and businesses expect to triple their app development and the average developer is now building for four different devices."

Developers said these new devices combined with the staggering growth of Apple's App Store and Android Market provide a fertile environment to bring forth new apps that will integrate more geo-location, social and cloud-based features in the next generation of business and consumer apps.

"Increased plans to integrate advertising and in-app purchase business models points to a new focus on longer-term financial viability over free brand affinity apps," the report said.

The average developer said he or she plans to develop 6.5 apps this year, up 183 percent from 2010.

While smartphones will continue to attract the majority of new mobile apps in the near term, the rapid accent of tablets, including the iPad , guarantees developers will shift their priorities accordingly as the market matures.

In January, IDC reported that tablet shipments in the third quarter urged up 45 percent sequentially from the prior quarter to more than 4.8 million units. That figure is expected to jump to more than 44.6 million this year and an astonishing 70.8 million tablets in 2012.

Seventy-four percent of developers said they are now "very interested" in developing for Android-based tablets, up 12 percent from just three months ago. Interest in Research In Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry PlayBook alone nearly doubled from 16 percent to 28 percent.

Among developers writing or considering writing apps for tablets other than the iPad, which saw its developer interest inch up 3 percentage points to 87 percent, 57 percent said price will be the most important factor for success. Among those writing for the iPad, developers cited new camera capabilities, a USB connector and an improved retina display as improvements that would spur even more application development.

The survey also found that connected TVs are just not that sexy to most mobile app developers.

Interest in Google TV fell 11 percent from the prior quarter to 33 percent and Apple iTV enthusiasm dropped 10 percent to 30 percent. Yahoo TV, Boxee and Roku also endured a similar sag in developer curiosity.

Windows Phone 7 interest moved up 8 percent to 36 percent among developers who deemed themselves "very interested" in the platform-- most citing its improved user interface for their newfound excitement.

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


developer, Android, mobile, tablet PC, mobile app