Developers and mobile platforms: lies, damn lies and surveys

I’ve been reading the IDC/Appcelerator developer survey about their attitudes to mobile platforms. The survey covered 2,760 Appcelerator Titanium developers between April 11-13, so it is certainly current and with a sample just about big enough to be interesting.

The survey asks developers if they are “very interested” in developing for specific platforms, with the following results, and with comparisons to 3 months ago:

  • 91% iPhone (fractionally down)
  • 86% iPad (fractionally down)
  • 85% Android phones (down from 87%)
  • 71% Android tablets (down from 74%)
  • 29% Windows Phone 7 (down from 36%)
  • 27% Blackberry phones (down from 38%)

The survey is titled:

Apple shines, Google slows, and Microsoft edges RIM in battle for mobile developer mindshare.

Is that a fair summary? It is not what I would highlight. I cannot read the exact figures from the chunky graphic, but it is clear that the iOS figures are also fractionally down, maybe by just 1%, but hardly much different from the Android figures on a sample of this size. Both are pretty much flat.

The figures for Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry are more dramatic; though we should at least note that Appcelerator Titanium is a cross-platform toolkit that does not currently support Windows Phone 7, and that its support for Blackberry is only in preview. That was true last time round as well, but I’m not sure that asking developers about their plans for a platform which the toolkit does not currently support is the best way to gauge overall interest.

Another question that interests me: is developer interest a cause or an effect of a mobile platform’s success? A bit of each, no doubt; but personally I think the “effect” model is stronger than the “cause” model. Developers pick a platform either because they have immediate customers for apps on that platform, or because they think they can make money from it.

Nurturing a strong developer community is definitely important for a platform provider; but I doubt it ranks as highly as other factors, like building a strong retail presence, delivering excellent devices at the right price, and focusing on usability and a good end-user experience.

If you are interested in Appcelerator Titanium you might like to read my interview with the CEO at Mobile World Congress; and this discussion on whether Titanium really builds native apps.

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