Google lost some ground in its effort to catch Apple's lead in the effort to attract mobile developer interest, but other rivals aren't even close, survey data released today show.
So concludes the latest quarterly survey by Appcelerator, released today. The company, along with analyst firm IDC, polled 2,760 developers in mid-April who are using Appcelerator's Titanium cross-platform development software.
"Interest in Android has recently plateaued as concerns around fragmentation and disappointing results from early tablet sales have caused developers to pull back from their previous steadily increasing enthusiasm for Google's mobile operating system," Appcelerator said. "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 mobile programming market is on fire. Ever-more-capable smartphones have claimed a position of tremendous importance in people's lives, and tablets are carving out a new entertainment and casual-use niche. And the devices are upending the computer industry, with new operating system and processor makers vaulted into importance while Intel chips and Microsoft Windows languish in the relatively static PC market.
Apple, a small player in PCs, is of course leader of the pack when it comes to mobile developer attention. The percent of developers "very interested" in writing software for the iPhone and iPad dipped 1 percentage point each to 91 percent and 86 percent, respectively, compared to figures from January. Android phones dropped 2 percentage points to 85 percent, and Android tablets dropped 3 percentage points to 71 percent, Appcelerator said.
But that bloom coming off the Android rose, despite the arrival of Motorola's Honeycomb-powered Xoom tablet, is nothing compared to what other mobile platforms face.
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 took third place from Blackberry's phone operating system--but only because its significant drop to 29 percent being "very interested" wasn't quite as bad as Blackberry's drop to 27 percent.
The survey found Microsoft's pact with Nokia, under which the phone maker will make Windows Phone its prime mobile OS, did in fact make a difference in perception. A total of 42 percent of developers said the partnership was the most significant development in competing with Apple and Google, the top factor.
Still, 62 percent believe no one can catch up to Apple and Google at this point.
One big reason: time. For example, 46 percent of those surveyed said the reason they're not messing with Windows Phone 7 is because they have their hands full already with iOS and Android.
The survey also tackled a thorny issue for mobile developers, fragmentation, which refers to differences among devices that mean programmers have to write different versions of their software. Fragmentation involves screen sizes, physical vs. virtual keyboards, processor power, memory, buttons, and OS versions.
Fragmentation has been a particular concern in the Android realm ever since Google succeeded in attracting many hardware companies to participate. And indeed it is an issue that 21 percent of developers raised as their greatest concern.
But guess what? Mobile developers have bigger worries. The top fragmentation concern involved programming skills, such as the ability to program with Objective-C for iOS and Java for Android, a problem 33 percent was at the top of the list. Next in line was OS fragmentation, at 22 percent.
"We count at least six layers of fragmentation that most developers and businesses have to deal with every day," Appcelerator said. (Of course, those with cross-platform development tools can be expected to chortle happily at fragmentation concerns, which for them are a business opportunity, but fragmentation makes also makes their jobs harder.)
Mobile programmers are tapping into cloud-based services, of course. The biggest category right now is social networking, which 78 percent of developers said they'd be connecting their software to in the next 12 to 18 months. Commerce and enterprise each reached 70 percent, while media and messaging each tallied 65 percent.