Ask a mobile app developer who their favorite superhero is and the answers will range from the affable Spiderman to the mutant Night Crawler. Ask that same individual which device they can’t wait to create an app for this year — a smartphone or tablet, and the answer is likelier to be — either. For now.
An explosion is going on around tablets, particularly in the enterprise, as is evident in the results of the Appcelerator / IDC Q2 Mobile Developer Survey, which attracted 6,046 participants. Findings show that, over the next six months, 81% of developers expect to build apps for the tablet, almost as many as those for the smartphone, 84%.
Is that because tablets are taking over by any chance?
“Developers create the trend by creating apps that are compelling,” said Michael King, Director of Enterprise Strategy, Appcelerator, in an interview with Mobile Enterprise. However, enterprises are also pushing developers, for functional apps – those that take a single process and do it well.
And as a result, developers are focusing on enterprise apps more than ever: while in 2010, the percentage was 38%, that amount has significantly increased — to 51% — and is expected to rise even higher, to 63%.
Developers will on average build for 2.5 operating systems. For the major OSes — iOS, Windows, and even BlackBerry — the survey shows an equal amount of developer interest when it comes to creating apps for smartphones and tablets. When it comes to Android, the gap widens.
Developers who are “very interested” in building apps for Android tablets stand at 66%, in comparison to 78% who are “very interested” in creating apps for Android phones. No other operating system has such a gap, according to the survey.
If Android tablets are on the rise, why doesn’t this increase correlate to an increase in developer interest? “Fragmentation,” King said simply. This issue alone is probably the biggest limit. Bugs may appear on some versions but not others for example, which interferes with troubleshooting, increases testing costs and causes obstacles for enterprise security to work.
As a result, King sees ecosystems building around Android. These “mini-communities” are a solution that will not absolve but will provide markets that developers can develop for, he said.
Out of the survey respondents, just over 10% of the BlackBerry developers are “very interested” in creating for smartphones, while slightly under 10% were “very interested” in creating for Playbooks.
That anyone is interested in the PlayBook at all may be a shock. At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter — not even to BlackBerry whose CEO Thorsten Heins has gone on record saying he doesn't see the need for tablets in five years anyway.
Analysts agree — in an interview with Mobile Enterprise, Dan Shey, Practice Director – M2M, Enterprise and Verticals, ABI Research, said “BlackBerry will be a viable player in the enterprise but not with its tablets.”
Tablet Today, Tablet Tomorrow
Creating existential paintings in the attic might satisfy the starving artist, but developers want the larger audience, and with tablets readily being used for various business processes, that enterprise audience is growing.
First, who is adopting tablets? Pretty much all verticals are, in some shape or form, Shey said. Who is using it most? Three groups, he replied: Clipboard replacement for field force workers. Grey collar workers — nurses, airline pilots, etc. — those who are educated but still perform task specific functions. And the biggest group of all — knowledge workers.
Huge Enterprise Gain
In all cases, without the apps, tablets are nothing but touchscreens. In terms of the enterprise, these apps are quickly changing business processes and communication itself. Here’s one of the significant findings from the Appcelerator / IDC Q2 Mobile Developer Survey:
From Q410 to Q213, there has been a 19% decline in developers who expect to build consumer-facing apps (B2C) for their enterprise clients, but a substantial increase in business (B2B) and employee (B2E) apps — from 29.3% in Q410 to 42.7% in Q213.
King noted that for every 1 or 2 apps to be created for the customer, between 20 -30 will be created for the employees. And, as enterprise apps are in demand, so are the developers themselves. Sixty-three percent of developers are reporting “increased” or “greatly increased” demand for their skills in the past six months.
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