Fragmentation hurts Android as developers favour iOS

Apple’s iOS has cemented its dominance as the most popular mobile platform among app developers, according to a quarterly survey that may signal sales trends for mobile devices.

The survey, which asked developers if they were interested in writing programs for various devices, showed Google’s Android slipped even though sales of devices powered by the operating system surged.

The platform is fragmenting as an array of hardware makers adapt it in different ways for their devices, unlike Apple’s iOS, which is used exclusively by the maker of the iPhone and iPad, said Mike King, a strategist at Appcelerator.

“The fragmentation of the platform, which Google seems unable to curtail, is driving this drop in interest,” King said.

The fragmentation of the platform, which Google seems unable to curtail, is driving this drop in interest

Developer interest is a useful indicator of broader support for a platform. Almost nine in every ten developers surveyed said they were ‘very interested’ in developing for iPhone and iPad, while eight in ten had interest in Android phones and only two-thirds were interested in Android tablets.

Interest in Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 was steady at 37%, while Research In Motion’s BlackBerry fell sharply again, with fewer than 16% expressing an interest, down from more than 20% three months ago.

“Microsoft is enjoying symbiotic success with Nokia,” Appcelerator said. “When asked why developers are more interested in Windows Phone 7 now than a year ago, a plurality (48%) said it was the Microsoft/Nokia partnership.”

The survey was conducted just as RIM was launching a major upgrade to the QNX software on its poor-selling PlayBook tablet. QNX will also power RIM’s next-generation handsets, due later this year. “Developers are taking a wait and see approach with QNX,” King said.

Most developers surveyed said they plan to use at least some HTML5 web-based code in their mobile apps, which can help to free developers from the restrictions of app stores and broaden their reach.

Boost for Google+

In a second finding by the survey, app developers said they expected Google’s extensive reach to help its new social media platform to catch up with Facebook eventually.

The search engine company launched Google+ last year, but it has so far failed to dent the dominance of Facebook, which has nearly 900 million users, half of them using a mobile device.

Two-thirds of those surveyed expect Google’s army of services such as Gmail, search, YouTube and Google Maps to give it momentum in catching up to Facebook.

“The engagement with the developers gives Google the ability to punch well above its weight in terms of mobile and social,” King said.

The survey questioned almost 2,200 developers, about 38% from Europe, 34% from North America and 28% from elsewhere.

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