iPhone wins developers' hearts

Mobile platforms from RIM and Microsoft are also attracting a surprisingly strong developer base, an Ovum survey has found
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Apple's iPhone has emerged as a clear favourite among developers in a new survey from Ovum, with the BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone OS forming the main competition.

The study, published on Wednesday, confirmed the emergence of the iPhone OS as the top mobile application platform since its launch in 2007, Ovum said. The research firm found that 81 percent of the 217 developers it polled are either already developing for the platform or planning to do so.

The popularity of the iPhone is to be expected, since "the commercial case for developing on the iPhone is largely proven", said Ovum principal analyst Tony Cripps in a statement.

More surprising was the fact that the BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone 7 — formerly Windows Mobile — proved more popular than either Google's Android OS or the pioneering Symbian OS, Cripps said.

The BlackBerry OS was used by 74 percent of the sample, while Windows Phone OS attracted 66 percent. The results show that the BlackBerry has successfully made the transition from an enterprise-centric device to a mainstream device, according to Cripps.

He said Microsoft's success is largely due to its overall success with developer tools.

"This support for Microsoft smartphones is, we believe, reflective of the company's eminence as a tools vendor, if not necessarily the user-friendliness of its device platform," Cripps stated. "Quality of tools repeatedly came out among the chief criteria for developers when selecting which platforms to work with."

Android OS attracted 64 percent of the developers sampled. Ovum attributed the third place to the platform's relatively small installed base and that it is the newest of the major smartphone operating systems, Cripps said.

Symbian OS, on the other hand, had the support of only 56 percent of respondents, despite commanding the highest volume of shipments and the largest installed base of all the platforms, Cripps pointed out.

He said the low figure for Symbian indicates a perceived lack of development of the platform as Nokia migrated it to a fully open-source version, as well as a lack of appealing mass-market devices.

"Whether Symbian can regain its developer poise will depend on how well Symbian^3 devices are received once they reach the market later in 2010," Cripps stated.

When selecting the platform on which to develop an application, developers said their top criterion was "ease of development", followed by breadth of platform functionality, a good-quality software development kit (SDK) and flexibility or innovation.

The survey found that 60 percent of developers are using or are planning to use Google's server-side APIs when building applications, as compared to 25 percent for the APIs of mobile operators.

Apple also led in application distribution, with 74 percent of respondents distributing or planning to distribute their applications through the iPhone App Store.

"Android Market, BlackBerry App World, and Windows Marketplace for Mobile all scored well with more than 50 percent of the sample supporting them," Ovum said.

Apple earlier in April reported second-quarter revenues of $13.5bn (£8.8bn) and profits of $3.07bn, up 49 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Its results were boosted in part by the sale of 8.75 million iPhones, up 131 percent year-on-year.

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