Survey: 'Ice Cream Sandwich' can't stop Android fragmentation

Google's mobile platform doesn't hold developer interest, even as Android unit shipments grown

Despite Google's release of the Android 4.0 OS last year, which was supposed to provide a unified platform for both tablets and smartphones, developers are still throwing their hands up dealing with fragmentation in the Android realm, survey results released this week reveal.

In the most recent quarterly survey of its own developer base, mobile application development platform vendor Appcelerator, along with IDC, found a slow erosion of interest in Android phones and tablets. The percentage of developers interested in Android phones in the first quarter of 2012 dropped 4.7 percent points to 78.6 percent; interest in building for Android tablets dropped 2.2 percentage points to 65.9 percent.

These are still high numbers, but the notion that Android is losing, rather than gaining, momentum in the red-hot mobile space is jaw-dropping, since Android has facing Apple in a two-horse race in the tablet and smartphone space. Appcelerator says developer interest has dropped in the past four months even as Android unit shipments have grown.

In the wake of the release of Android 4.0, also known as "Ice Cream Sandwich," device fragmentation remains a problem that is far from solved, said Michael King, Appcelerator principal mobile strategist. Appcelerator believes fragmentation is the main reason for Android's slippage: "The Ice Cream Sandwich release did some things, but you still have massive device fragmentation." Different devices have different capabilities, making application support problematic, he explained. He cited the Amazon Kindle as one Android device with a "completely different look and feel [than] any other Android device out there."

Still, King preached calmness about Android, dismissing the notion that the situation was dire for Android. But other platforms could get a leg up on Android as far as applications. "It just means that developers are finding developing for Android devices much more difficult so they're going to focus their attention elsewhere," he said.

One place where they apparently aren't turning their attention is the faltering RIM BlackBerry platform. Developer interest in that platform declined from 20.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 15.5 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, Apple's iOS remains first in developers' hearts. Eighty-nine percent of respondents are interested in developing for iPhone and 88 percent are interested in iPad. Those figures are about as close to unanimous as you can get.

In other findings, the survey had Windows Phone 7 ranked right behind iOS and Android in terms of interest, despite somewhat disappointing sales in Windows Phone 7 device sales to date. HTML5, meanwhile, is popular, with 79 percent of mobile developers reporting that they will integrate HTML5 into their apps this year.

Developers, though, are still trying to understand Facebook's social graph, with its leveraging tying for 8th place on a list of 11 social priorities for developers. Meanwhile, Google's strategic assets, including search, advertising, YouTube, Gmail, and Android provide an advantage, with 39 percent of developers saying the network effects of Google's assets are more important to their social strategies than Facebook's social graph.

Appcelerator and IDC polled 2,173 Appcelerator Titanium application developers in late January and followed up with 484 respondents in late February.

This article, "Survey: 'Ice Cream Sandwich' can't stop Android fragmentation," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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