Developers Bet On Apple Now, Google Later

Apple's devices may present the greatest promise for developers today, but app makers see Google's Android platform becoming more significant in the future.

Thomas Claburn, Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

June 23, 2010

3 Min Read

Software developers believe Google's Android platform has a better long-term outlook, better technological capabilities, and greater openness than Apple's iOS platform.

These are some of the findings of a survey of 2,733 developers conduct between June 15 and 17 by Appcelerator, maker of the Appcelerator Titanium Developer Platform.

The developers in question happen to be users of Appcelerator Titanium, the sort of cross-platform development tool that Apple doesn't like, so it may seem to make sense that those surveyed would prefer the openness of the Android platform to Apple's more controlled approach.

But it's not that simple. "As our survey points out, our developers actually are more interested in Apple's products than Google's," said Scott Schwarzhoff, VP of marketing at Appcelerator. "We also know that there are currently more Titanium apps written for the iPhone and iPad than for Android."

Apple's iOS 4 SDK Agreement impose fairly strict limitations on the kind of code developers may write. "Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs," the SDK Agreement states.

If interpreted strictly, these terms would disallow a host of third-party development tools such as Adobe Flash, Unity3D, Ansca Mobile's Corona, and Appcelerator Titantium. The makers of these tools and many developers have objected strongly to this language and prompted regulators at the Federal Trade Commission to begin reviewing Apple's rules for possible antitrust implications.

Apple's aim with these rules, as articulated by CEO Steve Jobs, is to prevent a third-party development platform, specifically (though not exclusively) Adobe Flash, from becoming the preferred mode of authoring for iOS devices. Such tools, Jobs contends, create substandard apps and limit the progress of the iOS platform. Apple also wants to exercise control over advertising and analytics data.

In what appears to be a concession to developers, Apple recently amended its iPhone SDK developer agreement to note that "with Apple’s prior written consent, an Application may use embedded interpreted code in a limited way if such use is solely for providing minor features or functionality that are consistent with the intended and advertised purpose of the Application."

Privately, makers of third-party development tools say they believe that Apple intends only to block apps created with Adobe's Flash tools. Apple could, however, enforce its rules more broadly at any time.

Given all this, it's understandable why Appcelerator developers may see more long-term promise on Google's platform than Apple's. The interests of this particular group of respondents can be seen in the report's observation that "'porting apps to multiple platforms' stood out as the number one developer pain point."

Nonetheless, in the near-term, survey respondents clearly recognize Apple's momentum and ongoing success. They rated Apple's iOS commerce/app store capabilities, discoverability, market size, device superiority, and near-term outlook above those of Google's Android platform. They also expressed significant interest in tablet devices, which means Apple's iPad. While Google's partners are expected to deliver Android-based tablets eventually, the iPad is really the only tablet worth taking about at the moment.

What’s perhaps most striking about Appcelerator's survey is that Apple's iOS and Google's Android have so much more developer interest than other platforms. The percentage of developers who are "very interested in creating software for each platform/device is as follows: iPhone (iOS) 90%; iPad (iOS) 84%; Android phone 81%; Android tablet 62%; BlackBerry 34%; Windows Phone 27%; Symbian 15%; Palm 13%.

"In short, Apple and Google are now playing chess while everyone else plays catch up," the survey says. "The surge in popularity for developing tablet applications on the two leading OSes, coupled with second tier platforms seeing flat to declining interest, suggests that Google and Apple are moving the battle from phones to a broader, more long-term platform shootout for 'anywhere computing.'"

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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