Survey: Mobile dev momentum "shifting back" to Apple

A new survey concludes that developer momentum is shifting away from Android and back towards Apple.

The survey – conducted by Appcelerator and IDC – blames fragmentation and tepid interest in current Android tablets for “chipping away” at Google’s recent momentum gains.

To be sure, interest in Android seems to have “plateaued” as concerns about fragmentation and disappointing results from early tablet sales cause developers to “pull back” from their previous steadily increasing enthusiasm for Google’s mobile operating system.

”While this opens the door a crack for new entrants, nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that it is not possible for Microsoft, RIM, HP, and Nokia to reverse momentum relative to Apple and Google,” the report stated.

“Underscoring the fluidity of the mobile ecosystem and in a peculiar turn of events, recent simultaneous drops in developer interest in Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry OSes move Windows Phone 7 ahead of BlackBerry to claim the third spot in developer interest.”

The report also emphasized there was “little room” for error in strategy or execution – with over a trillion dollars in market cap at play.

“This past quarter showed that even strong announcements and solid product introductions can still leave contenders to Apple’s app developer mindshare dominance at risk of falling further behind.”

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • Apple iOS interest remains high with 91% of developers saying they are “very interested” in iPhone development and 86% are very interested in developing for the iPad.
  • When it comes to fragmentation, Android’s issues are not the number one concern among developers. In fact, fragmentation in mobile today is six layers deep. Android fragmentation only ranks third behind the fragmentation of skills (eg: Objective-C vs. Java), and the fragmentation of OS capabilities (eg: iOS vs. Android vs. WP7). This context sheds light on how fragmentation within the Android operating system compounds an already larger problem, and it will be a critical issue for Google to address and an opportunity for competitors like Microsoft, HP, Nokia and RIM to exploit.

  • While 71% of developers are very interested in Android as a tablet OS, only 52% are very interested in one of the leading Android tablet devices today, the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Further down the list, only 44% are very interested in the Motorola Xoom and 31% in the upcoming HTC Flyer. Smaller players (Acer, Archos, etc.) register minimal interest. In short, the promise of an Android tablet is appealing, but the reality of currently, or soon-to-be, shipping devices is disappointing to developers.
  • Microsoft’s biggest problem with developers may simply be available time as noted by the 46% of respondents who indicated “I have my hands full with iOS and/ or Android.” In addition to landing major distribution partnerships and exploiting Android’s fragmentation and security holes, making app migrations from iOS and Android to Windows Phone 7 easy and profitable for developers will be critical for Microsoft.