The latest Appcelerator/IDC mobile survey has uncovered a growing well of frustration among Android developers, with underwhelming tablets, OS fragmentation and multiple app stores cited as the main worries.
During the last 12 months, the duo's quarterly Mobile Developer Report has tracked surging interest in Android to the extent that it has been able to dramatically narrow the developer enthusiasm gap on the survey leader, Apple's iOS.
In April 2011, however, Android interest levels among the 2,700 surveyed dropped for the first time, from 87 per cent to 85 per cent, behind the 91 and 86 per cent enthusiastic about the iPhone and iPad respectively. More noteworthy still, interest in Android tablets is now down three points to 71 per cent.
Almost two-thirds cited Android device fragmentation as the main gripe, with a further 30 per cent mentioning the operating system's weak showing in tablet computers, a market that Apple still has almost entirely to itself. Android's open model also came in for criticism with 28 per cent concerned about the existence of multiple application stores.
About the only good news for Google is that, Apple aside, developers seem even less convinced by the BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone 7, both of which now interest under 30 per cent of developers surveyed. With its platform barely off the ground, Microsoft will take comfort from the fact that Windows Phone is at least now in third place on 29 per cent, ahead of RIM's dismal and sinking 27 per cent.
Android's modest showing is perhaps not surprising after a recent clutch of security scares and Google's frank admission that it too is worried by fragmentation across hardware vendors and mobile networks. The company even stirred developers earlier this month by temporarily pulling the source code for its tablet OS, Android 3.0 -- codenamed 'Honeycomb' -- from all but a handful of larger partners, with fragmentation cited as the reason. A date for its re-release to small developers has yet to be set.
A deeper issue that all platform vendors playing catch-up need to watch out for could simply be developer overload.
"Microsoft's biggest problem with developers may simply be available time as noted by the 46 per cent of respondents who indicated 'I have my hands full with iOS and/ or Android,'" the survey authors said.
In this context, Android's fragmentation problem probably amplifies developer anxiety over a divergence of programming skills needed to create software for different platforms compounded by subtle but growing differences in their design.
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