Mobile-app developers target Android along with Apple

Google's Android operating system has almost caught up with Apple in smartphone popularity and is closing the gap in tablets. (AGENCY)

Application development priorities are changing in a tablet world that's seeing more Android devices targeting Apple's iPad dominance. So says a new survey of 2,200-plus app developers from Appcelerator and IDC.

The survey also reveals that app developers large and small are accelerating their efforts to build a mobile-application strategy to deal with an explosion in apps, mobile devices, operating systems, and capabilities. This year, developers and businesses expect to triple app development, and the average developer is building for four different devices.

The beneficiary is Google. According to the survey, Google's Android operating system has almost caught up with Apple in smartphone popularity and is closing the gap in tablets. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Research In Motion made solid gains through product line updates, while interest in Google TV and Apple TV dropped off.

The Android World

With 85 new, primarily Android, tablets announced at the Consumer Electronics Show, developers are pushing these devices to the top of their priority lists. Android tablet interest jumped 12 points in three months, with 74 percent of respondents saying they are "very interested" in developing for these devices.

With the Android tablet market set to explode this year, 57 percent of developers say price will be the most important factor for success, followed by minimized fragmentation (49 percent) and then Android Honeycomb capabilities (33 percent). Android phone interest (87 percent "very interested") rose five points to tie the iPad and close to within five points of iPhone (92 percent).

"Ever since Apple backed down and started allowing cross-platform development again, why not develop for Android?" asked Michael Disabato, managing vice president for network and telecom at Gartner.

"How much harder is it going to be once you get the tools in place to develop the application once, put it though a gizmo, and have an Android app, an iPhone app, and eventually a QNX app for the PlayBook? If the market is going to bifurcate, which it is, and there are going to be some Android tablets out there and there are going to be some Apple tablets out there, developers will look to get revenue from both."

Apple Still Dominates

Android may be challenging Apple, but Apple is still hitting on all cylinders with the iPad. Apple continues to be the number-one priority with more than 10 billion app sales to date. A common refrain from developers is: "After iPhone, do I go Android or iPad?" Developer interest in the iPad rose three points to 87 percent. For Apple, topping the iPad 2 wish list are new camera capabilities, a USB connector, and an improved Retina display.

Interest in RIM's PlayBook nearly doubled from 16 percent to 28 percent. Interest in webOS tablets from Hewlett-Packard remained flat at 16 percent. And Windows Phone 7 rose eight points to 36 percent of developers indicating they are "very interested" due to a better-than-expected launch. Respondents said Windows Phone 7's improved UI was a critical factor.

Finally, Amazon.com's newly announced Android app store shows early promise. While 82 percent of developers are interested in distributing their apps through Google's Android Market, 37 percent are interested in the Amazon App Store, 13 percent for Verizon VCAST, and nine percent for GetJar. Interestingly, developers are about equally as interested in the Mac App Store (39 percent) as they are in Amazon's new Android App Store.

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