For today’s mobile developer, market penetration and revenue potential are hands down the two most important reasons for selecting a platform, according to a study conducted by Vision Mobile.
The preference of marketing over technical reasons signifies a turn in the developer mindset. Developers no longer see programming fun as a sufficient reward in itself, but consider monetization opportunities as a primary priority. “Technical considerations are irrelevant. The choice of platform is always marketing-driven,” one developer notes.
Most developers work on multiple platforms, on average 2.8 platforms per developer, based on our sample of 400 respondents. Moreover, one in five iPhone and Android respondents release apps in both the Apple App Store and Android Market.
In a market crowded with software platforms, developers seem to choose between iOS, Android, Symbian, Java ME, BlackBerry, Flash, Windows Phone, mobile web, WebOS or Samsung Bada based on the size of the potential customer base and revenue opportunity, rather than technology attributes of each platform.
Symbian and Java ME, which dominated the developer mindshare pool until 2008, have been superceded by the Android and iPhone platforms. Despite Symbian remaining in the top position in terms of smartphone market penetration, Android has shot up.
Indeed Android stands out as the top platform according to developer experience, with close to 60 percent of developers having recently developed on Android, assuming an equal number of developers with experience on each of eight major platforms. iOS (iPhone) follows closely as the next most popular platform, outranking both Symbian and Java ME, which until 2008 were in pole position.
In the last two years, a mindshare migration has taken place for mobile developers away from the incumbent platforms Symbian, Java ME and Windows Phone, while a substantial number of PC software developers have flocked to iPhone and Android.
The large minority (20-25 percent) of Symbian respondents who sell their apps via iPhone and Android app stores reveals the brain-drain that is taking place towards these newer platforms.
The vast majority of Java ME respondents have lost faith in the write-once-run-anywhere vision. Moreover, anecdotal developer testimonials suggest that half of Windows Phone MVP developers (valued for their commitment to the platform) carry an iPhone and would think twice before re-investing in Windows Phone.
We should also point out the exodus of some influential developers from the Symbian camp, as is the case with the closing of Symbian-Guru.com, one of the leading community sites related to the platform, whose founder moved to adopt Android.
One of the most telling clues about the speed of evolution of the new vs old platforms is the great disparity between the device installed base and the number of available apps for each platform. While Windows Phone, Symbian, Java and Flash have many times the market penetration of Android, iPhone and BlackBerry, the number of apps available tells a very different story.
Most developers work on multiple platforms, on average 2.8 platforms per developer, based on our sample of 400 respondents (although note that 60% of respondents had more than 3 years of experience). Moreover, one in five iPhone and Android respondents release apps in both the Apple App Store and Android Market.