Appcelerator, a mobile application platform company, and analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC), recently announced the results of a new joint survey of 2,173 Appcelerator developers around the world. A key finding among a number of new data points shows that while the mobile app space to date has been dominated by native apps, HTML5 is now beginning to move to center stage with both pure mobile browser apps and "hybrid apps," which integrate both native code and substantial amounts of HTML5.
This approach will help developers innovate across a crowded mobile landscape that has seen iOS, Android, and Windows 7 claim the top 3 spots, while RIM and others have experienced significant declines. While Android has seen enormous growth in shipments and remains a solid number 2, fragmentation continues to take its toll, and developers are likely to take that fragmentation into consideration.
Longer term this may be good news for Windows Phone 7, but even more importantly, it may suggest that Windows 8 on ARM may get a strong push at the expense of Android when it launches in October.
Key findings from the report are as follows:
- HTML5 becomes important to many mobile developer strategies. A resounding 79% of mobile developers report that they will integrate HTML5 in their apps in 2012. This is much higher than many industry observers had anticipated as late as Q4 2011
- Mobile app development continues to Accelerate in 2012.More than half (53.5%) of respondents report that they are now focused on Accelerating their mobile strategies compared to 27.4% in 2010, and 16.9% of respondents report that they will be focused on Innovating their mobile apps in 2012 compared to 9.2% in 2010
- Windows Phone 7 interest remains high. WP7is the clear "number three" OS in terms of priorities, after Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The huge jump in interest in Q4 2011 is holding steady notwithstanding somewhat disappointing WP7 device sales to date
- This quarter saw another sharp drop in developer interest in BlackBerry OS. Developer interest declined from 20.7% in Q4 2011 to 15.5% in Q1 2012, set against negative news around RIM's challenges
- iOS continues to reign at number one in developer interest levels. Eighty-nine percent(89%) of respondents say they are very interested in developing for the iPhone, followed by the iPad at 88%
- Android phones and tablets are showing slow erosion of interest levels. This quarter, interest in Android phones dropped 4.7% points to 78.6%, and Android tablets dropped 2.2% points to 65.9% from the previous survey. Although close to or within the margins of error, these drops are consistent with the trend of small but steady erosion in Android interest over the last four quarters, even as enormous growth in Android unit shipments continues
- Location and notifications are the top two cloud services developers plan to use to help scale. Location and notifications are the top two services that developers plan to integrate into their applications to help scale up their mobile initiatives in 2012
- Developers are struggling to understand and leverage Facebook's social graph. Leveraging the full social graph itself ranked low - tied for 8th out of 11 social priorities for developers, while developers’ top uses of social remain notifications, status updates and authentication
- Google's network effects of its vast assets are a key strategic differentiator against Facebook. Google's footprint across its assets (search, advertising, YouTube, Gmail, Android, Maps, etc.) and its resultant network effect is indexing higher than expected, given the size of Facebook's massive lead in social
From Exploration to Acceleration and Innovation
Developers continue to move toward a maturation of their mobile strategies: to Acceleration and Innovation and away from initial app market Exploration. A majority of respondents believe they are clearly in the Acceleration phase now, with the expectation that they will be building multiple applications on a number of different operating systems.
Throughout the survey, messages of a gradually maturing market permeate. Growth in the number of developers building mobile applications, growth in the number of operation systems and applications supported, growth in the size of companies that are building mobile applications as well as increasing numbers of hybrid teams (both internal application development teams combined with external application development teams) are all evidence of this maturity. This quarter's survey underscores that 2012 will mark key shifts in platform strategies, how social will be leveraged, and how fast these changes will emerge in the marketplace.
Findings reveal developers’ accelerating interest in social mobile capabilities, and – notwithstanding Facebook’s 900 million users – developers view Google and its broad range of assets (i.e., Google+, search, Gmail, Android, Android Market, etc.) as key to implementing their social strategies in 2012.
The Google & Facebook Battle Moves to Mobile
Developers clearly see the worlds of mobile and social coming together as a huge opportunity, but they are struggling to understand how to leverage social assets in their mobile apps, including Facebook's social graph. At the same time, they recognize immediate value in having easy integration capabilities represented in Google’s combined network effects with Google search, YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, etc. In fact, 39% of developers say that the network effects of Google’s broad range of assets are more important to their social strategies in 2012 than Facebook's social graph.
"This translates into a big competitive opportunity for Google—and potential significant risk for Facebook—especially because developers perceive Google as innovating faster than Facebook," said Scott Ellison, VP Mobile & Connected Consumer Platforms at IDC. "Add to that, Google itself is clearly gearing up to leverage its network effects, one example being the alteration of its privacy policies to allow sharing of user data across its services."
For all of the excitement and opportunities that social networking creates within the mobile ecosystem, this survey revealed developers don't feel they have the knowledge or tools to fully leverage social in their app strategies. There are opportunities for established players like Facebook, LinkedIn, and RenRen, as well as for challengers like Google and even Apple, to engage, educate and provide tools to help contribute to developers' success, and drive engagement with their platforms.