Mobile Developers See Apple, Google Ruling Enterprise

Bad news for Microsoft extends far beyond mobile, developer survey says. But analysts don’t count Redmond out yet.
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Mobile developers see the heated competition between Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems reshaping the markets for cloud computing, enterprise IT, and social networking. Industry analysts, however, aren't quite ready to count Microsoft out.

A Q3 2011 survey of more than 2,000 mobile developers, conducted by cross-platform development toolmaker Appcelerator and research firm IDC, finds developers divided about whether iOS or Android will come to dominate the mobile enterprise market. Some 44% of respondents sided with Apple while another 44% sided with Google when asked which OS would prevail in the enterprise market. The chance of other operating systems becoming relevant to enterprises was deemed to be small: 7% said they believed Windows Phone 7 would emerge ahead, 4% bet on BlackBerry, and just 2% foresee webOS triumphant.

Developers projecting victories for iOS and Android cited different reasons for their assessment. Some 30% of developers see Android's ascendance following from its market share leadership. About 24% said they believe the ongoing consumerization of IT will ensure that iOS becomes the dominant force in enterprise mobility.

Consumer market relevance clearly influences how developers think about mobile platforms overall. Asked about what will affect the growth of mobile the most, the top two answers were Google+ (25%) and iCloud (22%).

Developers see Apple's iCloud reshaping the cloud computing market. Those planning to deploy cloud services in their apps over the next year say they're likely to choose: Amazon (51%), iCloud (50%), Microsoft Windows Azure (20%), VMWare (20%), and RedHat OpenShift (17%).

In an email, Appcelerator's VP of marketing, Scott Schwarzhoff, suggested that the increasing symbiosis of mobile and cloud will define the post-PC landscape. "Platform players in this new space will need an integrated strategy to create maximum value," he said. "This integration creates ease-of-deployment from a business standpoint, which in turn creates the opportunity for greater adoption. This ease of integration explains the enthusiasm we see from developers for Apple iCloud. To compete, Microsoft needs to make Windows Azure similarly easy to deploy to non-Microsoft devices for marketshare reasons while at the same time offer Azure as a way to pull through demand--particularly in the enterprise--for Windows Phone 7 devices."

Even so, there's an element of wishful thinking here: Developers, particularly those using Appcelerator's tools, prefer a simple world where they can write their code and have it work everywhere. Reality may not be so accommodating.

Appcelerator and IDC concede as much by questioning developer sentiment about Android in the enterprise. "Developer enthusiasm notwithstanding, Appcelerator and IDC believe that there may be a gap between CIO needs and developer perceptions when it comes to Android," the firms' report states. "Many CIOs today note that Android has a substantial way to go from a management tooling and security standpoint to see broad adoption in the enterprise."

At the same time, product gaps represent opportunities for third-parties. Witness Array Network's release of DesktopDirect for Android, which promises to solve some of the security issues associated with Android in the workplace. Just as the imperfections of Windows helped create a thriving ecosystem for third parties, the messiness of Android may create an incentive for third parties to build businesses that help Google's operating system rise and endure.

Certainly Apple, having build up its iOS business almost flawlessly, could become the next Microsoft if Android stumbles or becomes too expensive as a consequence of ongoing patent litigation. But not everyone believes that the mobile market can be reduced to two-horse race. Al Hilwa, IDC program director for applications development software, cautions that enterprise mobility has just begun to take off and that we have yet to see how well Microsoft will be able to leverage its might in the PC market to affect its mobile fortunes.

"The expectation is that enterprises will be going through a protracted cycle of reworking their apps to support mobility but many are waiting for Microsoft to play its hand with the PC since that is the de facto device that the overwhelming majority of enterprises buy for their employees," Hilwa wrote in an email. "The fact that Windows 8 will run on ARM and be more mobile will make mobility mainstream. I expect the synergies created between Windows 8 and Windows Phone to be very important in pushing WP7 into enterprise mobility."

Hilwa notes that Microsoft will have to resolve the differences in the application development models between Windows 8 and Windows Phone, which may happen at the forthcoming BUILD conference.

"If Windows 8 uses HTML5 and JavaScript as the primary UI development model and potentially for the Windows 8 app store, will a future version of Windows Phone also support that for its app stores?" he asks.

Apple and Google may be ahead, but it's too early still to declare the contest over.

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