Survey: Tablets Force Developers to Refocus Strategies

A new joint survey from Appcelerator and IDC shows that the emergence of tablet computers has caused developers to refocus their development strategies.

Appcelerator, maker of tools for building mobile, desktop and tablet applications, and IDC have announced results of a joint survey showing that the onslaught of tablet systems has caused some developers to refocus their development efforts.

Indeed, the joint Appcelerator-IDC survey of more than 2,200 developers around the world indicated that tablet interest spikes across the board. Android tablet interest jumped 12 points in three months to 74 of respondents saying they are "very interested" in developing for these devices, interest in BlackBerry Playbook nearly doubled from 16 percent to 28 percent, iPad rose three points to 87 percent, while WebOS tablet interest remained flat at 16 percent, the study showed.

With 85 new, primarily Android tablets announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in early January, developers are pushing these devices to the top of their priority list, Appcelerator officials said.

Overall, the survey reveals how new entrants to the tablet market are changing application development priorities and how businesses large and small are accelerating their efforts to build a mobile application strategy to deal with an explosion in apps, mobile devices, operating systems and capabilities, Appcelerator officials said.

Moreover, Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Appcelerator, said the Appcelerator-IDC Q1 2011 Mobile Developer Report, taken Jan. 10-12, shows that Google has nearly caught up to Apple in smartphone popularity and is closing the gap in tablets. Microsoft and RIM made solid gains through their product line updates, while interest in Google TV and Apple TV dropped off.

And as these trends unfold, it is also becoming clear that the days of mobile app experimentation are over, Schwarzhoff said. This year, developers expect to triple their app development, and the average developer is now building for four different devices, the survey showed. Meanwhile, a dramatic increase in the integration of geo-location, social and cloud-connectivity services underscores new focus on sustaining user engagement, while increased plans to integrate advertising and in-app purchase business models point to a new focus on longer-term financial viability over free brand affinity apps.

With the Android tablet market set to explode this year, 57 percent of developers said price will be the most important factor for success, followed by minimized fragmentation (49 percent) and then Android "Honeycomb" OS capabilities (33 percent).

"The tablets, unlike smartphones, will have wildly different pricing," Schwarzhoff told eWEEK. "Smartphones are about $199, but tablets will be different. There will be some sub-$100 tablets, and developers see this as a big opportunity."

Android phone interest, at 87 percent, rose five points to tie iPad and close to within five points of the iPhone, which has 92 percent. Yet Apple continues to be the No. 1 priority with more than 10 billion app sales to date. Schwarzhoff said a common refrain from developers is: "After iPhone, do I go Android or iPad?" For Apple, topping the iPad 2 wish list included new camera capabilities, a USB connector and an improved retina display, the survey showed.

As indicated, interest in building mobile apps for connected TVs decreased across the board as Google dialed down its launch plans, TV networks blocked access to their content and developers increasingly focused on tablets. Google TV interest slumped 11 points to 33 percent, while Apple iTV dropped 10 points to 30 percent. Developer interest in other alternatives like Yahoo TV, Boxee and Roku was also minimal, the survey showed.