Year in Review 2010: Mobile app development becomes a two-horse race as iOS and Android vie for supremacy

Close to 61 million U.S. subscribers now own smartphones according to data issued in December by research firm comScore--and for a growing number of those consumers, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android are the mobile operating systems of choice. While Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry remains the U.S. smartphone market leader, its share plunged from 39.3 percent in July 2010 to 35.8 percent in October--Android now represents 23.5 percent, up from 17 percent in July 2010, and within striking distance of iOS at 24.6 percent. (As for the also-rans, Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Mobile dropped from 11.8 percent to 9.7 percent, and Palm slipped from 4.9 percent to 3.9 percent.) Among U.S. consumers planning to upgrade their current phone, iOS is the likely destination for 35 percent of respondents, with Android at 28 percent and BlackBerry at 15 percent--however, among feature phone owners looking to upgrade, Android is targeted by 28 percent, edging past iOS at 25 percent and well ahead of BlackBerry at 11 percent.

Wherever consumers go, mobile developers are bound to follow--heading into 2011, iOS and Android application development projects now dwarf efforts for competing platforms. Ninety one percent of developers say they are "very interested" in creating apps for iPhone, two percentage points ahead of Apple's iPad tablet and nine points higher than Android smartphones, according to a survey conducted this fall by mobile software platform provider Appcelerator. The emergence of Android-powered tablets is also piquing developer curiosity, with 62 percent of respondents expressing strong interest in building Android apps optimized for large form-factor devices. The decline in developer enthusiasm is steep from there, however--just 34 percent of developers maintain serious interest in writing for BlackBerry, while 28 percent express strong interest in Microsoft's fledgling Windows Phone 7. The numbers are even grimmer for webOS (16 percent) and Symbian (13 percent), with only 7 percent of developers mustering genuine excitement about Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) MeeGo, tied with Amazon's Kindle ereader platform.

Mobile developers may be moving in different directions in 2011, but there's overwhelming agreement that the next year portends significant revenue growth. Thirty one percent of respondents surveyed by mobile advertising network Millennial Media they expect application revenues to increase 100 percent or more in 2011, with another 17 percent anticipating an increase of 50 percent or more. Only 10 percent of developers believe revenues will remain flat. As mobile applications continue to expand from smartphones to tablets, connected TVs and connected homes, research firm IDC anticipates worldwide download totals will increase from 10.9 billion in 2010 to 76.9 billion in 2014, with global app revenues surpassing $35 billion by the end of the forecast period. And if 2010 is any indication of what's to come, iOS and Android developers will reap the vast majority of those rewards.