Android Developer Interest Waning

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Android is losing fans in the developer scene, as HTML5 rises and Apple continues to dominate

Developer interest in Android is continuing to fall as iOS success and HTML5 popularity hit Google’s platform, according to a report released today.

Interest in Android phones fell from 83 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 78.6 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to a developer survey from mobile platform provider Appcelerator and analyst firm IDC.

From the third quarter to the fourth last year, enthusiasm dropped four percentage points. As for Android tablets in Q1 2012, it dipped  2.2 percent to 65.9 percent.

Apple’s iOS remains the number one platform for devs, with 89 percent saying they were very interested in producing apps for the iPhone, with 88 percent keen to produce software especially for the iPad.

‘Steady erosion’

“Although close to or within the margins of error, these drops are consistent with the trend of small but steady erosion in Android interest over the last four quarters, even as enormous growth in Android unit shipments continues,” the report read.

“We believe this is mostly due to the fragmentation Android continues to experience and that Google seems unable to curtail, and the continued success of Apple’s iPhone and iPad. This fragmentation, coupled with iPads continuing to outsell all Android tablets combined, has swayed developers increasingly towards iOS and away from Android.”

HTML5 will have an impact not just on Android, but on all platforms, as browswer based apps improve massively, Appcelerator said. Developer interest in the language soared, as 79 percent of developers said they will use HTML5 in their mobile app work. Many look set to create “hybrid apps”, using HTML5 and varying amounts of native code.

Google angered Android developers earlier this month, after it paid them a week late.

Social wars

It wasn’t all bad news for Google, however, as developers were upbeat about the company’s social network. Two-thirds of devs believed Google+ could catch up with Facebook, with 68 percent saying the former’s “network effects” were of more value than the latter’s “social graph.”

Respondents said the combination of Google’s services – including search, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Android, Android Market, Google Docs, AdMob and Google+ – would help developers gain greater coverage.

“This translates into a big competitive opportunity for Google – and potential significant risk for Facebook – especially because developers perceive Google as innovating faster than Facebook,” said Scott Ellison, vice president for mobile and connected consumer platforms at IDC. “Add to that, Google itself is clearly gearing up to leverage its network effects, one example being the alteration of its privacy policies to allow sharing of user data across its services.”

Google may have received negative press over its privacy policy, but the move was partly motivated by a desire to tie its many services closer together.

Windows 7 success, RIM decline

Meanwhile, Windows 7 is performing well on the back of success with Nokia’s Lumia devices. “The huge jump in interest in Q4 2011 for that OS is holding steady notwithstanding somewhat disappointing WP7 device sales to date,” the report read.

In the fourth quarter just 38 percent of devs said they were very interested in producing apps for Microsoft’s OS, but this was a major jump from the previous report. Importantly, it overtook both BlackBerry phones PlayBooks in terms of developer enthusiasm.

Appcelerator’s report heaped on more bad news for RIM, showing interest in BlackBerry OS slumping to 15.5 percent, down from 20.7 percent.

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