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Developer interest in Android tablets waning: study

Developer energy is shifting back to Apple as fragmentation and unenthusiastic interest in current Android tablets take away from Google’s recent gains, according to an Appcelerator study.

The report also highlights a rise in interest having to do with the mobile cloud. The “Appcelerator-IDC Q2 2011 Mobile Developer Report,” shows that although interest in Android has recently decreased, nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that it is impossible for Microsoft, Research In Motion, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia to gain enough momentum to compete with Apple and Google.

“The Android OS on the phone is a top consideration for developers but when you talk about Android for tablets, now that we’re past the initial euphoric stage, there isn’t a lot of interest from developers,” said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Appcelerator, Mountain View, CA.

“We saw after CES a high level of enthusiasm,” he said. “Now fast forward three months and tablets that are coming out with mixed reviews and fragmentation issues arise.

“The biggest challenge is fragmentation and that the tablets are not seeing much traction”

The fragmentation dilemma
The Appcelerator report outlines six layers of fragmentation that are increasingly becoming concerns for developers.

Skills fragmentation is the first major concern. That means using Objective-C versus Java to build an app and finding employees that do both.

OS fragmentation – iOS, Android, RIM or Microsoft – is also frustrating.

Android fragmentation in terms of hardware and software is a big issue, especially for the tablets that are built for the system.

Device fragmentation is an issue as well. Developing for a phone verses a tablet creates problems.

And, lastly, app fragmentation – one company, multiple apps – is also an issue, especially when maintaining each one.

Apple up, Google and the rest down
Apple iOS interest from developers remains high with 91 percent saying they are very interested in iPhone development and 86 percent are very interested in developing for the iPad.

But Google’s results were not as exciting.

Interest in Android phones fell two points to 85 percent and Android tablets fell three points to 71 percent after increasing twelve points in the first quarter.

These drops stand in contrast to steadily increasing developer interest in Android over the last year and follow an increase in developer frustration with Android.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said that device fragmentation in Android poses the biggest risk to the OS, followed by weak initial traction in tablets (30 percent) and multiple Android app stores (28 percent).

While 71 percent of developers are very interested in Android as a tablet OS, only 52 percent are very interested in just one of the Android tablet devices available today, the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Only 44 percent are very interested in the Motorola Xoom and 31 percent in the upcoming HTC Flyer.

Respondents’ interest in Microsoft and RIM dropped substantially compared to last quarter.  Microsoft fell seven points, with only 29 percent of developers saying they are very interested in the Windows Phone 7, while BlackBerry phones dropped eleven points to 27 percent.

Despite Android’s pullback, the road to becoming No. 2 will be long for either Microsoft or RIM.  Sixty-two percent of respondents say it will be impossible for anyone to catch up to market leaders Apple and Google.

“Developers are saying their hands are full with Android and iOS,” Mr. Schwarzhoff said. “They just don’t have enough time to go with the second-tier players.”

Mobile meets cloud
The demand for software, information and data portability increases as mobile devices outnumber desktops, per Appcelerator.

The result is a distributed, cloud-based and cloud-connected services model primarily accessed by mobile devices through rich native applications.

The opportunity for innovation in the mobile cloud is huge, as it represents the future of how disparate software, data and information sources will connect to, and help solve the fragmentation issues between, the multiple devices and multiple operating systems that are now defining the new computing world order, Appcelerator says in the study.

“Brands that have solved the cross-platform challenge are now inquiring about how to create effective cloud services that tie into these different devices,” Mr. Schwarzhoff said. “It is not just one cloud service that needs to be considered.

“There is a huge amount of cloud service consumption,” he said. “Now I need to think about how to connect my business and the brand to the cloud now that I understand all three layers and I understand the advantage of the cloud.”