Until this year, Google Ventures partner Rich Miner recommended to mobile application startups funded by his company that they start out by developing for Apple's iOS rather than Android.
Only in the past six months has Google's Android platform become significant enough in the market that it made sense for developers to release mobile apps first on that platform, said Miner, who co-founded Android before it was acquired by Google. He spoke at the VentureBeat conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
"There was just that many more handsets out there, and still a more mature developer ecosystem" for iOS, Miner said. However, he added, "That has clearly flipped" in the past six months, as Android has gained momentum and market share. Last week, comScore reported that in the three months ending in May, Android was the top smartphone platform in the U.S. with 38 percent of existing devices. It grew faster than iOS, which reached 26.6 percent, while Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform fell to 24.7 percent, comScore said.
One advantage Android has is that developers can more easily get their products out to users, Miner said. For one thing, they can deliver alpha-test and beta-test versions of the software on Android, including through sideloading to the phone, without having to worry about getting them approved by Apple for its App Store.
The venture arm of Google is run purely for investments, without any technology biases imposed by Google product managers or engineers, said Miner, who helped start the fund in 2009. "Google has said many times that they will measure our performance based on our financial success," he said. The fund has US$100 million to invest in startups annually.
On Tuesday, Miner announced investments in two mobile companies: Astrid, which offers a task management application, and Crittercism, a software platform for support forums that mobile app developers can add to their applications. He did not disclose the size of the fund's investments. Astrid began on Android and on Tuesday launched an iOS version of its app.
Miner is now looking toward enterprise mobility, seeing a void in the market that BlackBerry devices filled during the age of feature phones. Unless there are big changes at RIM, he expects most current BlackBerry users to switch to another platform soon. RIM has suffered delays of some key products and recently reported declining BlackBerry sales.
"I've seen some enterprise applications, some of them decent, for mobile, on Android and for iOS, but not nearly enough," Miner said. "To me, that's a huge opportunity, since neither Apple nor Google are really focused on the enterprise that much."
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