What App Developer Survey means to your business

If there is one area of technology that threatens to knock the “cloud” off of its buzzword pedestal its “apps”. Apple may have a trademark for the term “App Store”, and it may have introduced the app to the general public with the iPhone, but apps have exploded onto the social consciousness and transformed software development.


Companies of all sizes have app stores now (although they are called something else due to Apple’s trademark), and the app has transcended its smartphone roots. Samsung created its own smartphone operating system specifically so it could launch a proprietary app store, and even Intel has developed an outlet for apps aimed at netbooks using its Atom processors.


Appcelerator, developer of tools and platforms to simplify development of content-rich, intuitive apps for mobile and desktop systems, has just released results of a new survey illustrating where app developers intend to focus their efforts. The survey yields some interesting and enlightening results.


This survey follows a similar survey conducted two months ago prior to the official announcement of Apple’s iPad tablet device. Results at the time showed that 90 percent of developers were interested in developing for the iPad, but now that interest has tapered off to 80 percent.


According to the Appcelerator press release “When Appcelerator first surveyed its developer base prior to Apple’s iPad announcement in January of this year, interest in the platform was overwhelmingly high. Fast forward two months, and interest remains strong, but off the wild enthusiasm in January.”


In a nutshell, the results look like this: the iPhone is still the favored platform for app development, followed by Android, then iPad. In terms of tablet-like devices, interest in the iPad is four times greater than that expressed for developing apps for Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader.


Interest has greatly increased in developing apps for the BlackBerry and Windows Mobile (now dubbed Windows Phone 7) platforms, while developers are less likely now to develop apps for Palm’s WebOS. The new Meego OS–a merger between Nokia and Intel–is essentially stagnant since its 12 percent is even with the combined percentages of the Linux-based Maemo and Moblin platforms that comprise it.


Survey results can be spun and twisted to make just about any point; but how do these results impact your business? Well, the answer to that question can be summed up with a response from one of the developers in the survey who explained that his app development priorities are driven by “marketplace success and how long the platform will be around.”


So, on the one hand these results can be used as a sort of barometer for the current and projected success of the various platforms–at least as perceived by the developers that are creating the underlying software infrastructure for them. Analysts opinions may not hold much weight sometimes, but if developers choose to shun a given platform it becomes a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.


Where a survey like this has value to businesses is as a tool for making decisions regarding which platforms to invest in. Organizations may want to think twice about investing in Palm WebOS smartphones since so many analysts have already written Palm’s obituary and developers are shying away from creating apps for the platform. However, businesses can invest in platforms like iPhone, Android, and iPad with confidence that the devices will be supported with a robust marketplace of apps to extend the functionality and provide value.


As with any survey, take the results with a grain of salt. There are always underlying factors such as the size of the survey and the potential bias of the respondents, plus things can change quickly in smartphone and mobile device technology. But, you can make smarter decisions about which platforms to invest in by analyzing and understanding surveys such as this one.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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