It’s no real secret that Google’s Android platform has been underperforming when it comes to apps. Yes, Android currently reigns as the most widely used mobile platform, but its apps have failed to reach the level of success that competitor Apple has achieved for various reasons. While Google’s app efforts aren’t completely underwater as of yet, recent surveys show that it is losing the favor of developers over time.
Research firm IDC and Appcelerator, a mobile development platform vendor, recently released the results of a study where they surveyed over 2,100 app developers to get their opinions on mobile platforms and development. Of the survey’s participants, 78.6 percent showed interest in developing apps for Android smartphones during the first quarter of 2012. Although that number is rather high, it’s a decrease from the 83.3 percent who said they would participate in Android development in the fourth quarter of 2011 and the 87 percent surveyed during the first quarter of 2011.
Mike King, Appcelerator’s principal mobile strategist and a former analyst with Gartner, described the reasoning behind the waning interest in Android: “Massive platform fragmentation is a big reason that we’re seeing this decline in interest. If you look at all the other numbers such as Android smartphone market share it’s on the upswing, but for app developers it’s a real challenge.”
Despite Android’s declining popularity among developers, it still remains highly competitive when compared to other platforms. The only platform that has it beat is Apple’s iOS, which received interest from 89 percent of the recently surveyed developers. Microsoft still lags behind the competition, but the study did show that developer interest is growing for its Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 tablet devices. Approximately 37 percent of the developers said they had interest in developing apps for Microsoft’s mobile platforms. Falling by the wayside in a major way is Research in Motion’s BlackBerry OS. Its developer interest for the first quarter of 2012 came in at just 15.5 percent, a decrease from the 20.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and 37 percent in the first quarter of 2011.
For Android to regain its popularity among app developers, its fragmentation issues must be addressed. Google will have to simplify things by unifying Android devices under the same version of its operating system. The company did take a step in the right direction with its release of Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich. The OS was the first for Android to be optimized for tablets and smartphones. Still, King noted that developers have remained cautious when it comes to the new OS. “They’re somewhat lukewarm to Ice Cream Sandwich, they’re taking a wait-and-see approach. Whereas with Apple, they’re saying, ‘We know iOS and it’s relatively easy for us to build an application and deploy it,” said King.