Are developers giving up on Android?

Jason Ankenyeditor's corner

Springtime is here, temperatures are rising, and nothing is hotter than HTML5. Seventy-nine percent of the developers queried for the Q1 2012 Appcelerator/IDC Mobile Developer Report said they plan to integrate some HTML5 into their mobile apps that they build this year, a number that's significantly higher than many industry observers anticipated even as recently as late 2011. Appcelerator reports that HTML5 is gaining its greatest traction in the form of hybrid apps that integrate with varying amounts of native code: Seventy-two percent of developers planning to leverage HTML5 favor this hybrid approach, with only 6 percent planning to build pure browser-based apps.

Any discussion what's hot is inevitably followed by a conversation around what's not, and that's Android. Appcelerator reports that 78.6 percent of developers expressed interest in building apps for Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) smartphones during the first quarter, down from 83.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 and down from around 87 percent a year ago. Given that Android's market share has continued to explode over the last 12 months, you can't blame consumer disinterest for developer apathy in the platform; the culprit is--you guessed it--fragmentation.

"In Q1 2011 Android was nearly neck-and-neck with iOS in terms of developer interest," the Appcelerator/IDC report states. "Among developers, Android (in both tablet form and smartphone) held almost as much interest as iPads and iPhones. In the past year, developer interest in both Android platforms has begun to wane... 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 (NASDAQ:AAPL) 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."

Speaking of iOS, it remains the frontrunner, with 89 percent of developers expressing strong interest in building apps for the iPhone, edging ahead of iPad interest at 88 percent. Looking past iOS, Android and HTML5, the dropoff is steep: Developer interest in Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone 7 remains steady at 37 percent, but interest in Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) continues to erode, sliding from 20.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 15.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012. BlackBerry's fade to black is a vivid example of what happens when developers lose interest in an operating system--and a possible preview of what could happen to Android if Google doesn't solve the platform's fragmentation problems soon.  

Shifting gears, this is my last issue writing FierceDeveloper. I'm not going far: I will continue to write the daily FierceMobileContent newsletter and I'll still contribute to FierceDeveloper on an occasional basis, but my overall workload prevents me from maintaining the same level of commitment moving forward. I leave you in the capable hands of veteran mobile reporter Peggy Albright, who takes over next week.

On my way out, I'd like to thank the FierceDeveloper readership and everyone at FierceMarkets who makes this publication possible. I'd also like to thank all the mobile developers, industry executives and analysts who shared their time and insight to make the newsletter better. I've been lucky to have a front row seat to the mind-boggling growth of the mobile app ecosystem, and I can't wait to see what happens next.--Jason