More developers are actively engaged in creating iPhone and iPad apps than apps for other mobile platforms today, but a new survey from Appcelerator indicates the momentum is shifting. Android is closing the gap on current app development, while widening its lead over iOS as the platform considered to have the best long-term outlook.
An Appcelerator blog post detailing the results of the developer survey frames the battle between Android and iOS. "One of the most discussed findings of Appcelerator's June 2010 survey revealed that 54.0 percent of developers said Android had the best long-term outlook compared to iOS at 40.4 percent. Fast forward three months beyond a successful iPhone 4 launch and Apple's recent announcement that it would be easing restrictions on developers and... this gap has widened 10.1 points. Now 58.6 percent of respondents in our new survey believe Android has a better long-term outlook over iOS (34.9 percent)."
A year ago such results might have seemed ludicrous--or even blasphemous. The Apple iCulture was already firmly entrenched with a comfortable lead, and even with its initial success surpassing the BlackBerry and WebOS app markets, Google's Android Market seemed like a trivial challenger for the formidable Apple App Store.
Appcelerator explains in the blog post, "that developers favor Android 72 percent to 25 percent over iOS as the platform "best positioned to power a large number and variety of connected devices in the future,"" and that, "by a wide margin, Android is considered the most open platform, even after Apple's recent changes to its developer agreement to provide additional clarity to its app approval process and open up iOS to other development tools/languages."
The developer survey results seem to indicate that developers see the writing on the wall, though, and that it is assumed that Android will one day dwarf iOS just as Windows dwarfs Mac OS X in the PC market. While zealots will debate the intricacies that separate the platforms and make one or the other "superior", the expected victory of Android is more a function of volume and logistics than the technical supremacy of either mobile OS.
The availability of Android as an open source mobile platform means that its future potential is essentially in the hands of developers, and that its limits are defined by the creativity of those that build on and expand its capabilities. By contrast, Apple's iOS is closed and proprietary. Its capabilities are limited to how Apple defines them, its potential is restricted to the devices that Apple deems worthy, and its use protected by licensing agreements and copyright law.
Just as the Apple business model has limited the potential for Mac OS X, the restrictive nature of iOS virtually guarantees that Android will surpass it as the dominant mobile platform. That said, just as Apple continues to have a dedicated following for its PCs despite having a trivial five percent market share, it will most likely continue to have a loyal following for its iPhone and iPad, and continue to generate substantial revenue and profit despite eventually losing the market share war.