Now Mobile Developer Study Cites Android Fragmentation Concerns

by Sam Dean - May. 03, 2011Comments (0)

Appcelerator and IDC are out with a new market research study that collects a lot of highly interesting data from mobile developers. It's available for download as a PDF, and is summarized, here. If you're unfamiliar with Appcelerator, it offers a cross-platform development environment for mobile applications, and has users who are very qualified to talk about the pros and cons of the major mobile platforms. In the study, survey respondents cited Apple iOS and Google's Android mobile OS as the most attractive platforms to develop for, but the study results also point to some concerns about Android fragmentation, and other issues.

According to the study:

"The Appcelerator-IDC Q2 2011 Mobile Developer Survey Report, taken April 11-13, shows that interest in Android has recently plateaued as concerns around fragmentation and disappointing results from early tablet sales have caused developers to pull back from their previous steadily increasing enthusiasm for Google’s mobile operating system. While this opens the door a crack for new entrants, nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that it is not possible for Microsoft, RIM, HP, and Nokia to reverse momentum relative to Apple and Google."

The study showed that developer interest in Android tablets is stalling, which is probably to be expected at this juncture, since Google has been selective--rather than totally open--about the hardware partners who have access to its tablet-focused Honeycomb version of Android. Interestingly, the Appcelerator and IDC study provides this added level of analysis regarding developer concerns about Android fragmentation relative to other fragmented platforms:

"When it comes to fragmentation, Android’s issues are not the number one concern among developers. In fact, fragmentation in mobile today is six layers deep. Android fragmentation only ranks third behind the fragmentation of skills (eg: Objective-C vs. Java), and the fragmentation of OS capabilities (eg: iOS vs. Android vs. WP7). This context sheds light on how fragmentation within the Android operating system compounds an already larger problem, and it will be a critical issue for Google to address and an opportunity for competitors like Microsoft, HP, Nokia and RIM to exploit."

There's one important point that doesn't come out in this study, though, and that is that Google knows its strategy of giving the latest version of Android to select hardware partners creates developer concerns about fragmentation, but it is doing so in the interest of encouraging unified user interfaces and user experiences in the emerging tablet category. We explored this strategy from Google fully in this post

By working with a small group of tablet makers who have privileged access to the tablet-customized version of Android, Google can steer a more unified ship for Android tablets. It can ensure that interfaces are uniform, and have input on uniform hardware designs.  These are efforts that favor users, and it appears that Google is willing to take some risks regarding developer perceptions of its strategy. 

The full report from Appcelerator and IDC is worth looking into whether you are a developer of mobile apps, or a user of mobile apps and platforms. Check it out.


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