Android Devs Turned Off By Fragmentation

Android's momentum in the developer community has reversed course, according to poll.
Are developers beginning to turn away from Google's Android platform? Possibly, if you believe the numbers uncovered by IDC and Appcelerator. The two surveyed some 2,100 developers recently and discovered that 78.6% of developers were interested in creating apps for Android during the first quarter of 2012.

That's a great number, but it's down from 83.3% in the fourth quarter of 2011, which was down from 87% during the first quarter of 2011. In a year's time, interest among developers in Android has waned about 10%. But why?

"Massive platform fragmentation is a big reason that we're seeing this decline in interest," said Appcelerator principle mobile strategist Mike King. "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."

Google measures the incidence of each Android variant accessing Google Play in 14-day chunks. In the latest 14-day chunk, only 1.6% of all devices accessing the Android Market were running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the most recent version of the OS. That's up just over half a percentage point, and it includes Android 4.0 through Android 4.0.3. So in just over three months of availability, Ice Cream Sandwich has clawed from 0% to a fractional 1.6%.

[ Check out these terrific apps for Android. See 10 Android App Hidden Gems. ]

"[Developers are] somewhat lukewarm to Ice Cream Sandwich," said King."[They] are 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."

Looking at the rest of the field, Google points out that Gingerbread's share of the Android universe actually grew, too, stealing a bit from Froyo and Eclair. Android 2.3 swelled from 58.6% to 62% in February, meaning three out of five Android devices are running the version of Android that was released in December 2010. Gingerbread and Froyo together own about 88% of the entire Android platform. Every other variant of Android (1.5, 1.6, 2.1, 2.2, 3.2) lost share in the last month.

So, yeah, there's a bunch of different variations of Android, each with different API levels, that developers need to worry about. With Ice Cream Sandwich failing to reach the market in significant numbers four months after its release, there's been a drop in developer interest.

Where do other mobile platforms rank in terms of developer interest?

Developer interest in Android is surpassed only by interest in Apple's iOS platform, which was found to be appealing to 89% of developers. Interest in Android completely outpaces developer interest in RIM's BlackBerry platform. IDC and Appcelerator show that only 15.5% of developers maintained interest in BlackBerry OS during the first quarter of 2012, down from 20.7% in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Microsoft continues to win over developer mindshare with its Windows Phone platform. According to IDC/Appcelerator, developer interest in Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 tablets rose to 37%, handily beating out interest in RIM's BlackBerry platform.

Last, HTML5 is making strides, too. IDC/Appcelerator said that 78% of developers plan to integrate HTML5 into their apps this year.

In this interactive virtual event from Dr. Dobb's, Developing With HTML5, top business technologists, experts, and solution providers will discuss the present and future of HTML5 as a Web- and mobile-development platform. When you register, you will gain access to live webcast presentations and virtual booths packed with free resources. It happens April 12. (Free registration required.)

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