App wars: iPad 2 faces deadly fight against 85 new tablets

26 Jan 2011

As businesses large and small are accelerate their efforts to build a mobile application strategy to deal with an explosion in apps, mobile devices, operating systems and capabilities, the iPad 2 from Apple will have to fight for developers’ hearts and minds.

The Appcelerator-IDC Q1 2011 Mobile Developer Report and survey shows 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. As these trends unfold, it is also becoming clear that the days of mobile app experimentation are over.

This year, developers and businesses expect to triple their app development and the average developer is now building for four different devices.

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 points to a new focus on longer-term financial viability over free brand affinity apps.

New Android tablets to challenge iPad 2 for developer mindshare

With 85 new and primarily Android tablets announced at CES, developers are making these devices a priority. Highlights from this survey include:

Tablet interest spikes across the board: Android tablet interest jumped 12 points in three months to 74pc of respondents saying they are “very interested” in developing for these devices. Interest in the BlackBerry Playbook nearly doubled from 16pc to 28pc. The iPad rose three points to 87pc, while webOS tablet interest remained flat at 16pc.

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

For Apple, topping the iPad 2 wish list were: new camera capabilities, a USB connector, and an improved retina display.

Android phone interest (87pc “very interested”) rose five points to tie iPad and close to within five points of iPhone (92pc). Yet Apple continues to be the priority, with more than 10bn app sales to date. A common refrain from developers is: “after iPhone, do I go Android or iPad?”

While tablets are hot, connected TVs are not. Interest in building mobile apps for connected TVs decreased across the board as Google dialled down its launch plans, TV networks blocked access to their content, and developers increasingly focused on tablets. Google TV interest slumped 11 points to 33pc while Apple iTV dropped 10 points to 30pc. Developer interest in other alternatives like Yahoo TV, Boxee and Roku was also minimal.

Windows Phone 7 rose 8 points to 36pc of developers indicating they are “very interested” due to a better-than-expected launch. Respondents said Windows Phone’s improved UI was a critical factor for the increase.

Amazon’s newly announced Android Appstore shows early promise. While 82pc of developers are interested in distributing their apps through the Android Market, 37pc are interested in the Amazon Appstore, 13pc for Verizon VCAST, and 9pc for GetJar.

Interestingly, developers are about equally as interested in the Mac App Store (39pc) as they are in Amazon’s new Android Appstore.

Businesses in race to build a mobile app strategy

The proliferation of apps, devices, platforms and capabilities has triggered a race among businesses large and small to define a sustainable mobile strategy. This quarter, Appcelerator and IDC introduced a new ‘Mobile Maturity Model’ to identify three phases of mobility adoption shaping up in the enterprise and consumer markets: exploration, acceleration, and innovation.

Last year, most respondents (43pc) said they were in the exploring phase of their mobile strategy. A simple app or two – typically on iPhone – and a focus on free or $0.99 branded apps was standard practice. This year, 55pc of respondents said they are now shifting into the acceleration phase. This phase is defined by the following trends and mobile strategies:

  • On average, each respondent said they plan to develop 6.5 apps this year, up 183pc over last year.
  • Businesses are increasingly taking a multi-platform approach. On average, respondents said they plan to deploy apps on at least four different devices (eg: iPhone, iPad, Android Phone, Android tablet) this year, up two-fold over 2010.
  • Ubiquitous cloud-connectivity: 87pc of developers said their apps will connect to the cloud this year, up from 64pc last year.
  • Always connected, personal and contextual: in addition to cloud services, integration of social and location services will explode in 2011 and will define the majority of mobile experiences this year.

Interest in commerce apps is also on the rise, with PayPal beating Apple and Google as the more preferred method for payments.

Business models are evolving to stay in lockstep with these more engaging mobile app experiences. Developers are shifting away from free brand affinity apps and becoming less reliant on $0.99 app sales. Increasingly, the focus is on user engagement models, such as in-app purchasing and advertising, with mobile commerce on the horizon.

Outsource goes in-house: the enterprise takes control of its mobile destiny. Eighty-one per cent of respondents said they in-source their development, with the majority saying they have an integrated in-house web and mobile team.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years