Which mobile platforms will developers target in 2012?

Jason Ankenyeditor's corner

We're in the homestretch of 2011, which means it's time to start looking at the year ahead. Mobile developers are already plotting their 2012 moves, and while it's no surprise that Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android continue to dominate their focus, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone is beginning to generate growing interest as well according to a new survey conducted by Strategy Analytics. Eight percent of developers plan to support Windows Phone in the months to come, compared to just 3 percent at this time a year ago--a 167 percent year-over-year increase, Strategy Analytics notes. In addition, 19 percent of developers expect to begin creating applications optimized for Apple's iPad tablet, up from 8 percent in 2010 (a 138 percent jump). 

Between the iPad and iPhone combined, Apple's iOS tops all other development platforms, with 51 percent of developers pledging their support--however, just 32 percent of devs plan to create iPhone apps in 2012, down from 43 percent a year ago. Android is next at 30 percent, up from 23 percent a year ago. Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry is on life support: Just 1 percent of developers surveyed by Strategy Analytics plan BlackBerry projects in the next year, down from 5 percent a year earlier. "Developers are tired of a few making the lion's share of revenue," said Strategy Analytics director of apps research Josh Martin in a statement. "Thus, we see strong interest in fresh, emerging platforms and new business models, such as virtual goods and in-app advertising over the next year. The platform that best delivers revenue from multiple streams stands the best chance of success in the next eighteen months."

But developer interest in Windows Phone outstrips consumer enthusiasm for the platform, at least for now. As of October 2011, Windows devices make up just 5.6 percent of all U.S. smartphones, down from 5.7 percent three months earlier, according to new data published by digital research firm comScore. Smartphone ownership nationwide now tops 90 million, with Android now dominating 46.3 percent of the U.S. market, up 4.4 percentage points since July 2011. Apple's iOS was the only other mobile platform to exhibit growth during the period, increasing 1.0 percentage point over July to capture 28.1 percent of the market.

Developers with waning interest in the iPhone should also note that consumers have never been more excited about downloading apps to the device. Mobile app user acquisition platform Fiksu's latest App Store Competitive Index reports that mobile application downloads in the U.S. increased from 3.8 million in September 2011 to a record 4.91 million in October, a 29 percent month-over-month leap, and credits the surge to the release of the new iPhone 4S. Fiksu notes that the Index experienced download increases as high as 70 percent during the iPhone 4S launch weekend and a 40 percent jump during the post-launch period compared to the weeks prior to the smartphone's retail launch. Fiksu also reports that organic downloads (defined as installs by consumers who actively seek and download apps without seeing an ad) grew 75 percent during the launch before settling in at 54 percent post-launch. Maybe developers aren't quite as gung-ho on building iOS apps, but those kinds of download metrics explain why it's still the operating system to beat. -Jason

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