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Developer Interest In Android Tablets Stalls

Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry phones both saw a significant drop in interest from application developers.
This pause in Android's widely assumed world conquest hasn't represented a gain for the less popular mobile platforms. Developer interest in Windows Phone 7 fell to 29%, a decline of seven percentage points since January; developer interest in BlackBerry phones dropped to 27%, a loss of 11 percentage points from interest expressed three months ago.

While Schwarzhoff said that Microsoft's strategic partnership with Nokia has helped make WP7 the third most popular mobile platform, behind iOS and Android, he said he believes Microsoft will face continued difficulty as it tries to catch up. That's what the survey respondents appear to believe as well: Some 60% of them doubt that Microsoft will be able to catch up to Apple or Google. And this may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy because 46% of developers say they're too busy worrying about iOS and Android to devote attention to other platforms.

Mobile development is moving away from monetization through app sales toward revenue generation from multiple streams, including advertising and social tools that promote in-app purchasing, Schwarzhoff said.

Mobile developers also are thinking about apps more as mobile clients for cloud services than as self-contained programs. According to the survey, 84% of respondents expect to connect their apps to public or private cloud services.

Android improvements will come, eventually. Nielsen is reporting that 50% of all smartphones purchased in the U.S. in the last six months were Android phones. The Android tablet picture is bound to improve as well. But while Google and its partners get their acts together, Barnes & Noble's Nook appears to be quietly thriving.

On Monday, Barnes & Noble updated its Nook Color operating system to Android 2.2 and launched its Nook App Store while opening its tablet up to outside developers. The company is selling some 2 million digital book titles, but it is only offering 125 Android apps at the moment. For developers, that represents an opportunity.

To help stock its app store, Barnes & Noble is looking not only to Java-based Android developers, but to mobile developers who prefer third-party frameworks that allow them to write code that can be reused on multiple platforms. The company is supporting Adobe AIR for Android, Ansca Moble's Corona SDK, Mono for Android, PhoneGap, and Unity: Android as alternative development tools.

Carlos Icaza, co-founder and chief evangelist for Ansca Mobile, which has just released a version of its Corona SDK for the Nook Color, said in a phone interview that he has seen a very positive response from the Corona developer community because they appreciate having another venue to monetize their apps. He also cites the Nook's well-defined niche--it's an e-reading tablet--as something that's attractive to developers. Developers appreciate being able to target a specific demographic for e-books and interactive content, he said.

Icaza said he expects the Android tablet market to improve over time, but believes there will be problems while manufacturers fight both among themselves to differentiate their tablets and with Apple for leadership in the market.

"It's getting too crowded in the tablet market," he said. "Everybody has to fight against each other before their can turn their guns on Apple."

The competition at the moment among Android tablet makers, he said, is too much about differentiation through features and not enough about the whole user experience. Over time, he expects that the larger vendors will become more like Apple by seeking to control the whole experience, either through their own operating systems or by adding layers atop Android that enforce their own unique value proposition.