Android slips on app developer radar

Fragmentation and weak tablet sales see global developer interest decline for Google's mobile OS, while Apple's iOS is unchallenged as most preferred platform, reveals new report.

App developers' interest in Google's Android mobile operating system (OS) has waned slightly, due to fragmentation and disappointing results from early tablet sales, but Apple's iOS remains the most preferred platform, according to a recent survey of more than 2,700 developers around the world.

Conducted by mobile software developer Appcelerator and research firm IDC, the quarterly study found that 91 percent of developers were "very interested" in iPhone development, with 86 percent giving the nod to the iPad.

The Android platform, however, took a slight hit--85 percent of respondents said the same in April, compared with 87 percent in January. Developer interest in Android tablets was down three points to 71 percent, after having risen 12 points in the first quarter.

While the figures appeared marginal, they contrast with steadily increasing developer interest in Android over the past year and reflect an increase in developer frustration with the platform, said Appcelerator.

Over 60 percent of survey participants said device fragmentation posed the biggest risk to the Android platform, while 30 percent attributed the loss of interest to weak tablet sales. Twenty-eight percent put the blame on multiple Android app stores.

Highlighting that there are six layers of mobile fragmentation, Appcelerator noted that Android fragmentation ranked third behind the fragmentation of skills, such as Objective-C and Java, and the fragmentation of OS capabilities.

"This context sheds light on how fragmentation within the Android operating system compounds an already larger problem, and it will be a critical issue for Google to address and an opportunity for competitors like Microsoft, HP (Hewlett-Packard), Nokia and blackberry-maker RIM (Research In Motion) to exploit," the company added.

Windows Phone was the third most popular mobile platform for developers, dropping 7 points to 29 percent in April 2011, while fourth-placed RIM also tumbled 11 percent to 27 percent. The report suggested that Microsoft's partnership announcement with Nokia may helped Redmond gain an edge over its Canadian rival.

Nokia's Symbian and Intel's MeeGo took the bottom two spots.

Despite "plateaued" interest in Android, 62 percent of the respondents indicated that it is not possible for other players to catch up with market leaders to Apple and Google. Microsoft, in particular, may have a difficult time catching up, as 46 percent of the developers indicated they already "have their hands full with iOS and/or Android".

To gain a stronger foothold, it is "critical" for Microsoft to ensure that app migrations from the iOS and Android platforms are easy and profitable, the report added.

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