It wasn't long ago that developers were more likely to focus their efforts on iOS than Android because the homogeneous nature of the hardware platform ensured that they could optimize their apps and guarantee predictable user experiences. However, as Google announced this weekend that it was nearly doubling the number of countries in which developers could sell paid apps through their Market, Appcelerator and IDC published a recent survey of smartphone developers suggesting that loyalties were shifting quickly to the open source OS.
According to Mashable,
The results...indicate that Google’s Android platform continues to be where developers see the most long-term potential, especially when powering multiple types of devices (read: beyond smartphone/tablet).
In fact, the gap between iOS and Android over “best long-term outlook” has widened an additional 10 points since June...[with] 58.6% of respondents [seeing] Android as having better long-term outlook as compared to 34.9% for iOS.
Herein, of course, lies the developers' dilemma. Do you develop on a tight, well-loved OS for a large market (i.e., Apple's iOS) or do you develop in Android's Wild West, navigating multiple hardware and software platforms and many versions of the Android OS to potentially reach a much larger audience? As the survey suggests, you probably go for the latter. Android phones are exploding now and all signs indicate that Android tablets that will compete quite well with the iPad are on the edge of making tablets ubiquitous computing devices.
For device makers, it's something of a "build-it-and-they-will-come" paradigm. Bring those Android devices to market, prove that consumers will buy them (and they will), and the developers will come. For its part, Google could do a much better job strong-arming its carrier and device manufacturer partners to reduce fragmentation and make the platform more inviting for developers, but ultimately, the sheer size of the market will be too much for developers to pass up. This week's expansion to include a full 26 countries with paid app support is a major step in the right direction.