Tablet Wars: what piques developers

Chances are if you’re looking for the hottest third-party applications for tablet devices you’ll find them on the iPad or an Android-powered device, according to a recent survey. Appcelerator, makers of cross-platform app development software, and market research firm IDC (PC World and IDC are both owned by International Data Group) recently surveyed 2,235 mobile developers to get their views on the state of mobile computing.

On average, mobile developers plan to produce 6.5 applications each in 2011 — an increase of 183% compared with 2010. You can also expect to see more apps that reach for the clouds. The survey found 87 percent of developers plan to offer some kind of online integration with their apps — only 64 percent planned cloud services in 2010.

But the big question for mobile developers in 2011 is, “which platforms and devices do I want to build my apps for?” Unsurprisingly, 92 percent of survey respondents said their top pick for app development is the iPhone. Android was close behind, with 87 percent saying they were “very interested” in making apps for Google’s mobile platform. BlackBerry phones and Windows Phone 7 perked the interests of developers at 38 and 36 percent, respectively. So it’s pretty clear the newest and hottest apps are probably going to show up on iPhone and Android smartphones first, before tablets.

iPad vs. The World

If you’re waiting for an Android-based alternative to the iPad, there’s a good chance it will be able to run this year’s hottest apps. The survey found 74 percent of developers want to create new programs for Android tablets. But the iPad will still be the big tablet winner in 2011, with 87 percent saying they are very interested in writing for Apple’s device.
The Other Guys

If you plan on getting a BlackBerry Playbook this year, it’s hard to say what your app future will look like. Right now, only 28 percent of developers surveyed are interested in the new BlackBerry tablet, but that interest has grown by 12 percent since RIM announced the device in September. If you’re planning on snapping up one of the unannounced WebOS tablets, keep in mind that you may have to wait a while for new apps. Only 16 percent of survey respondents said they were very interested in developing for Hewlett-Packard’s WebOS.
Android: It’s All About the Price

Despite recent complaints about developing for multiple Android devices, mobile developers were more concerned about price than device fragmentation. The survey found that 57 percent of mobile developers said success for Android tablets was tied to pricing. That doesn’t bode well for the recently announced Microsoft Xoom, which has a rumored price tag of $800. Only 49 percent said the biggest stumbling block for Android was fragmentation.

The Appcelerator/IDC survey also found the feature that developers were most hoping to see, and take advantage of, in the iPad 2 was a camera.

It’s going to be a big year for tablets in 2011, but for mobile developers there appear to be only two choices for apps: iPad and anything Android.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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