A recent survey of mobile software developers by Appcelerator and IDC has some troubling news for those companies trying to catch Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) in the mobile market: application fatigue is setting in as developers weigh adding new platforms to their mix while managing the burden of updating their existing iOS and Android apps.
“Before it was, ‘hey, I did my iPhone app, I’m done for the year.’ Now it’s like everyone has done their first app, that chapter is behind us, and now they need to think about the portfolio,” said Scott Schwarzhoff of Appcelerator, discussing how the 2,760 mobile developers using its Appcelerator Titanium development platform saw the mobile world in a broad survey conducted earlier this month. Developers are already facing a number of headaches as the mobile opportunity demands more and more of their time, and “if something has to give, it’s where you are experimenting or where it’s optional,” he said.
As a result, developers indicating they were “very interested” in building products what Appcelerator calls the “tier two” mobile platforms, namely Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, declined significantly in the second quarter compared to the first. Windows Phone 7 now ranks third behind iOS and Android (probably due to Microsoft’s deal with Nokia (NYSE: NOK), according to Appcelerator) but those saying they were “very interested” in the software fell seven points to just 29 percent, while interest in BlackBerry phones declined 11 points to 27 percent. By comparison, 91 percent of surveyed developers are very interested in iPhone development, while 85 percent are very interested in Android development.
When it comes to tablets, developers are still enthusiastic for iOS and Android, with 86 percent indicating strong interest in the iPad and 71 percent in Android tablets. However, interest in Android tablets fell due in part of a lack of interest in Android tablet hardware at present: while 71 percent of the developers were interested in Android as a tablet OS, only 52 percent were interested in the Samsung Galaxy Tab and just 44 percent were interested in Motorola’s Xoom, the two most well-known Android tablets yet introduced. Just 20 percent surveyed said they were “very interested” in RIM’s Playbook.
—Fragmentation: Developers are indeed concerned about the difficulty of managing the multiple versions of hardware that Android partners create, but there are other fragmentation-related problems that cause more headaches, according to the survey results. Skills fragmentation (Objective-C versus Java) and the natural fragmentation of having to manage multiple mobile operating systems were cited more often than Android fragmentation as a problem, although fragmentation was overwhelmingly cited as the biggest Android-specific problem.
—Big lead: Just 38 percent of those surveyed thinks a third company can catch up to either Apple or Google at this point in the evolution of mobile computing.
—Microsoft-Nokia: The deal between the two companies to put Windows Phone 7 on Nokia handsets was seen as the biggest development of the first quarter by developers in terms of narrowing that gap with Apple/Google, followed by RIM’s announcement that it would support Android applications on the Playbook. Still, when asked what the biggest threats to Windows Phone 7 are at present, 59 percent said it was too far behind iOS and Android and 46 percent said they didn’t have time to support another mobile OS.
—In the clouds: Eighty-four percent of developers plan to connect their apps to cloud services, with social (Facebook/Twitter), commerce (Amazon/Paypal) and enterprise (Oracle/Microsoft) leading the way.
—Apps vs. Mobile Web: It’s still an app world, with 48 percent of developers saying they’re working only on native apps. Still, 42 percent said they are working on making their apps run both natively and on the Web, citing how much easier it is to target multiple platforms with a Web app.
Here’s a historical chart of interest in mobile platforms over the last several quarters: