Android surpassed iOS as the most popular mobile platform earlier this year. Market share for iOS hasn't move up much, if it all, yet Android continues its rise. Common sense suggests that developers would begin focusing initial releases of applications for Google's platform since it has more users. It might not be so simple though.
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was asked in a conference last week what Google was doing to encourage developers to target Android first instead of iOS. You can see the question and answer starting at about 41:15 into the video. Schmidt replied:
"Six months from now you will say the opposite because ultimately applications vendors are driven by volume and the volume is favored by the open approach that Google is taking. There are literally so many manufacturers who are working so hard to distribute Android phones globally that weather you like [Ice Cream Sandwich] or not ... you will want to develop for that platform and perhaps even first."
As InformationWeek writer Eric Zeman correctly noted in the post, even though Android out-sells and out-activates iOS phones every day, the total number of iOS devices in the wild still outnumbers Android. To Schmidt, though, this is a pure numbers game. Assuming the current sales trend continues, he expects that within six months, Android phones will outnumber iOS phones and developers will change their priorities.
Yoni Heisler at isn't convinced. His argument is that it isn't just the number of users, but the type of customers those users are. For the most part, developers are business people. As such, the goal is to maximize revenues while minimizing effort. Targeting iOS today as well as tomorrow is good business sense. Those users tend to be more likely to fork over money for an app, which is why Apple has been able to turn over $3.5 billion dollars back over to developers. Let that number roll around in your head for just a minute.
To enforce his point, Heisler points out that 1.3% of Android apps are paid for, whereas 13.5% of iOS apps are. Assuming that trend holds, it means Android would have to have over 10 times as many devices in use for the developers to be able to look at the market as equal.
When it comes to premium apps at least, I wouldn't expect the current trend of apps becoming available first for iOS devices to change anytime soon.