Survey: iPhone Leads BlackBerry, Windows Phone in Mobile Developer Race

The iPhone operating system is the clear favorite smartphone platform for developers, according to Ovum's first mobile application developer survey.

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The iPhone operating system is the clear favorite smartphone platform for developers, according to Ovum's first mobile application developer survey.

Although all five major smartphone platforms fared well in the survey, Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS and Windows Mobile lead the opposition to iPhone, rather than Android or Symbian, according to the Ovum findings. Moreover, overall, Java ME -- Java Platform, Micro Edition -- remains the leading mobile development environment, showing there's still life - if not necessarily big profits - in an old and rather neglected technology, said Tony Cripps, an analyst at Ovum.

For its 2010 mobile application developer survey, Ovum polled 217 developers and found that the iPhone OS garnered the most support, with 81 percent of developers responding that they are either already developing for the platform or planning to do so. Apple claims more than 185,000 applications in its App Store, through which more than 3 billion applications have been downloaded. The commercial case for developing on iPhone is therefore largely proven, Ovum said.

More surprising is that overall RIM's BlackBerry OS and Microsoft's Windows Phone OS (formerly Windows Mobile) proved more popular in the Ovum survey than either Google's Android OS or the Symbian's OS. According to the Ovum survey, 74 percent of developers said they develop for or plan to develop for the BlackBerry and 66 percent said the same for Windows Phone.

Cripps said he believes the support for Microsoft smartphones is reflective of the company's strength as a tools vendor, if not necessarily the user friendliness of its device platform. Quality of tools repeatedly came out among the chief criteria for developers when selecting which platforms to work with, according to Ovum.

Android came in fourth with 64 percent of developers saying they develop for the Android. And Symbian rounded out the top five with 56 percent of the developers surveyed saying they are developing for the Symbian OS.

An Ovum statement about the survey said:

"In our view, Symbian's relative failure reflects the perceived (if not actual) lack of development in the platform of late while Nokia migrates to the fully open source version. A failure of OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers] to offer devices that regularly appeal to the consumer has not helped either, at a time when its competitors are doing just that. Whether Symbian can regain its developer poise will depend on how well Symbian 3 devices are received once they reach the market later in 2010."

Moreover, Cripps said, "Symbian does, at least, continue to command a following among developers and keeps Nokia in the game. Less well-supported platforms such as LiMo and Palm's webOS are struggling for developer acceptance, as well as consumer acceptance."

Meanwhile, lack of application support is a sure-fire way of putting off consumers, the Ovum study indicated. Only 30 percent of the developers surveyed said they will support any other platform outside the top five.

The top three mobile application platforms indicated in the Ovum survey, in order, were: Java ME, mobile browsers and full Web browsers. Each of these environments is being targeted by more than 80 percent of developers surveyed by Ovum. Qualcomm's BREW and Adobe's Flash were not far behind, the survey said.