For the last several years, Apple's iOS mobile operating system has been getting most of the attention from software developers every time a new version comes out, in comparison with new releases of Google's competing Android OS.
But something interesting just happened: Google's latest Android Jelly Bean release got almost exactly as much developer attention as iOS did in the first 24 hours after it became available, according to data analysis firm Chitika.
And it could be a sign of things to come, according to Chitika. It could mean that Android development is perhaps finally catching up to iOS development in terms of the interest of app developers from around the world.
"It's not dramatic, but it's one of these slow trends," said Andrew Waber, a Chitika analyst. "As we're seeing Android devices getting more popular [with consumers], you're also seeing that on the developer side" as more developers are giving their attention to building Android apps and improving that OS.
"At some point, Android even could surpass iOS" in terms of developer interest, said Waber. "It's certainly possible. The trends are pointing that way. The levels of developer interest ¦ have equalized after years of being weighted toward iOS."
In its new report, "iOS 6 vs. Android Jelly Bean: Initial Developer Interest Nearly Identical," Chitika measured iOS 6 and Android Jelly Bean activity in the 24 hours following the debut of the beta version of each OS.
"Apple released iOS 6 Beta 3 to developers on Monday, July 16th, and, as with previous releases, there was a significant amount of interest from the software development community," the report stated. Downloads of that Beta 3 version led to a nearly 10 percent increase in iOS 6 download traffic to 0.11 percent, according to the report.
"Interestingly, Googles release of Android Jelly Bean [to developers on July 9] has been met with a nearly identical amount of enthusiasm, with usage rates the first full day following its release, hitting 0.10 percent of all Android traffic," the report continued.
After several years of market domination by iOS, compared with Android, the balance is shifting, according to Chitika. iOS and Android today nearly split the marketplace in half when it comes to usage share, with iOS holding a 50.2 percent share of the mobile OS market and Android with 46.7 percent, according to Chitika's latest real-time tracker statistics.
Dan Olds, principal IT analyst with Gabriel Consulting Group, said that the Chitika figures are more interesting when matched up with Apple's quarterly earnings report, which was released July 24.
Apple reported in its fiscal third-quarter earnings statement July 24 that it brought in a record $35 billion and profited $8.8 billion, but hints of a sales slowdown of its iPhones next quarter raised red flags among Wall Street analysts. But troubles may lurk ahead. Analysts cited an anticipated iPhone sales drop-off as a reason for their scaled-back financial expectations in the next quarter.
That news, mixed with Chitika's new report, gives the marketplace some things to ponder, said Olds. "Apple sold its first billion smartphones already. That second billion gets a lot tougher to sell, and the third billion will be even tougher still. That makes this report a bit more significant and meaningful when I factor that in."
And despite fragmentation in the Android development world, the tussle between Android and iOS is going to continue to be more competitive, said Olds. "Those arent problems that you see in the Apple world because they own it all and control the whole stack. I dont think that Android fragmentation is going to slow developers."
What the latest Chitika numbers show more than anything, he said, is that "one thing we can say without dispute right now is that Android isnt going away. And while Apple's market share in mobile is likely now at its high-water mark, that probably hasn't yet been reached by Android, said Olds.
Gabriel Donnini, a data analyst with Chitika, said the increased attention being paid by developers to the most recent version of Android can perhaps be tied to the development standards and practices used in the respective OS ecosystems.
"Apple is a little notorious in the development community because they post higher barriers to entry for developers" who want to unveil and sell their apps in Apple's app store, said Donnini. Part of that is that Apple takes a 30 percent cut of revenue for apps sold in the store by developers, and they make it more difficult with many rules to even get an app into their store, he said.
Those higher barriers, as well as larger consumer adoption of Android, could be luring more developers to bring their apps out for Android right now, said Donnini. That could change, of course, if Apple sees such a pattern.
"If for one reason or another the majority of the development community decided to put more of their resources toward Android," said Donnini, "I'm sure we would see a reaction by Apple to try to lure developers back to their platform."