Android Attractive Despite Fragmentation Concerns: Baird

Google's Android platform fragmentation is worrisome to developers, but most are quite bullish about writing apps for the open-source platform, as well as Apple iOS.

Google's Android operating system is pacing the U.S. smartphone market with 33 percent share, so clearly consumers are buying millions of phones that Motorola, Samsung, HTC and others are pumping out.

However, gross fragmentation in the Android platform and overall ecosystem has some developers nervous, according to a survey of 250 developers conducted by Baird analyst William Power.

For context, 71 percent of the respondents develop for Android, followed by 62 percent for iOS. Also, 70 percent of the iOS developers claimed they also develop for Android, with 63 percent of Android developers also developing for iOS. Ideally, this lends some validity to developers' ability to judge both platforms.

To wit, some 56 percent of Android developers said that OS fragmentation is a meaningful or huge problem. Indeed, a quick perusal of Google's Android device dashboard shows 7 versions of Android, including the new Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" platform.

Moreover, the rise of new Android applications stores from Verizon and has Android programmers worried. Power said developers prefer a unified, single store experience like Apple's App Store.

"We view this feedback as directionally negative for the Android ecosystem and its handset partners, though we would note that this risk is well known by the market and developers view Android's long-term prospects as bright," Power wrote in his April 4 research note.

The bright, long-term prospects are likely indicative of the fact that consumers don't seem to care about the developer angst and platform fragmentation.

Few are likely worried about it even if they would acknowledge that Apple's App Store has both more application choices than the Android Market, and is easier to navigate. Apple has 350,000-plus apps compared to 150,000 in the Android Market.

Power found in his poll that iOS continues to lead the charge in application visibility. Android developers said they were concerned their apps were getting buried by "junk" apps.

Google sought to address the Android visibility issue by refurbishing the Android Market client and building the Android Market Webstore, which lets users buy apps from their computer and install them to their phone via the cloud.

iOS also paces the market in helping developers to get paid by a wide margin, beating Android, Research In Motion's BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7. Some 74 percent of those polled by Power ranked iOS a 1 or a 2 when it come to getting paid.

Google launched in-app billing last week to improve revenue generation options for its developers, but Apple iOS programmers have racked up $3 billion in revenues since the App Store launch in 2008.

Ultimately, over 60 percent of respondents listed the long-term outlook for Apple and Android as "excellent," with Research in Motion's Blackberry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 below 10 percent.