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Android Outlook Brighter Than iOS, Developers Say

Apple's iOS still gets better marks than Android in most areas, but developers see Android as having a more promising future.

Mobile app developers increasingly believe that Google's Android platform has a better long-term outlook than Apple's iOS platform, even as they continue to rate iOS better in terms of app sales, discoverability, and hardware.

These findings, from the latest survey of 2,363 developers conducted by Appcelerator, makers of the Titanium cross-platform mobile development software, and research firm IDC, recall similar results presented by Appcelerator in June.

What's different is that percentage of developers who consider Android's long-term prospects to be brighter than those of iOS has increased by about 10% in the past three months. In June 2010, 54% of developers said Android had the best long-term outlook, compared to 40.4% who believed iOS would do better over time. In September, 2010, 58.6% of developers saw a better future in Android, compared to 34.9% who rated iOS's potential superior.

This lapse of faith in iOS comes despite Apple's decision to abandon controversial developer rules proposed in April that would have imposed restrictions on how iOS mobile apps could be created.

But Apple's iOS isn't really taking it on the chin. The iPhone remains the most popular target device for mobile developers and the iPad has eclipsed Android phones as the second most popular target device.

The percentage of developers who say they are "very interested" in developing for specific mobile platforms or devices breaks down as follows: iPhone (92%);iPad (84%); Android phone (82%); Android tablet (62%); BlackBerry phone (34%); Windows Phone 7 (28%); webOS phone (16%); webOS tablet (16%); BlackBerry tablet (16%); Symbian (13%); MeeGo (7%); and Kindle (7%).

What's more, Apple's iOS trounces Android in terms of perceived market size, revenue revenue, app discoverability, store quality, hardware.

So how is it that Android is the future, when so many acknowledge that iOS rules the present? Well, Android gets better marks as an operating system than iOS: 57% of developers believe Android has better capabilities an an operating system, compared to 36% who prefer iOS. Also, Android is rated more open by a wide margin (85% to 6%).

But Android's shine has largely to do with its potential to power a variety of devices from a multitude of electronics makers. Some 72% of developers believe Android "is best positioned to power a large number and variety of connected devices in the future," compared to 25% who say as much about iOS.

Developers, in short, believe Google TV will be widely adopted and anticipate Android's presence in a variety of other devices, such as tablet computers. Apple's iOS powers Apple TV and could become meaningful beyond the iPhone, iPad, and iPod family if and when Apple releases a TV Store framework for TV apps. But iOS is not likely to be as ubiquitous as Android. Still, given Apple's iOS-related profit margins, the company can afford to fall behind Android in unit sales as long as the market for iOS devices continues to grow.

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