Excellent ‘Mobile Developer Economics 2010′ Report from VisionMobile
VisionMobile’s ‘Mobile Developer Economics 2010‘ Report came out today. It’s detailed and excellent – you should go download it right now. It’s also free in exchange for your email, so it’s an excellent value. VisionMobile’s blog is one of my favorite mobile analysis sites, and those guys definitely know their stuff. However, I disagree with a couple of the report’s conclusions.
The Most Important Chart in the Report is in the Back
Before you read any of the press around the report, or look at all of the cool infographics, you need to understand where the data is drawn from. (All charts will enlarge when clicked.)
The majority of the developers in the study come from Europe and India. This is important to understand in interpreting the results of the study – largely because mobile markets are dramatically different in different countries.
Is Android Really Winning Developer’s Hearts and Minds?
The VisionMobile team asserts:
One can easily see that Android stands out as the top platform according to developer experience, with close to 60 percent of developers having recently developed on Android, assuming an equal number of developers with experience on each of eight major platforms. iOS (iPhone) follows closely as the next most popular platform, outranking both Symbian and Java ME, which until 2008 were in pole position.
Given the geographic bias in the sample, I think a better statement may be “In our sample of predominantly European and Indian developers, we found Android to edge out iPhone slightly.” Certainly in the United States, where I have been involved in app development, almost all of the interest is around iOS apps – maybe 85% iOS to 12% Android to 3% everything else. Outside data supports this conclusion.
Furthermore, the Android Market has barred developers from most of the countries in the world – including India, China, and others, from selling apps. In fact, only residents of Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Spain, UK, or the US may sell apps in the Android market. This has created a cottage industry in pass-thru companies that will sell paid apps for you on the Android market, in exchange for large chunks of the revenue. I can’t imagine this policy wins converts to Android around the world.
Why is Android ‘Winning’?
In VisionMobile’s study, they attribute two major reasons for Android’s ‘victory’ over iOS in developer mindshare.
- Android’s ‘Open Source’ Nature
- the $100 fee to submit apps
This is particularly interesting, largely because Android isn’t that open and software developers generally don’t respond positively to mis-labeled marketing spin. All of the good parts – the Android Market, the Google Apps, the almighty GTalk XMPP connection – are quite closed, and commercially licensed. Furthermore, should you do something amazing and choose to contribute it to the Android code base, you would have a good deal of trouble if you did not work at Google. (This article from Andreas at VisionMobile actually sums it up perfectly.) If developers are truly attracted by openness, they must be picking the most open of two or three different options. By contrast, Palm attempted to embrace open source developers at the end of the mismanagement of the WebOS developer community, and it generated no particular traction or love with developers.
I’m not sure I believe that a $100 fee is a real barrier either. A test device will cost well more than that, as will a development machine. It may be a barrier to some developers in developing countries, however, these developers are not allowed to make money selling apps directly on the Android Market.
I have a different thesis for the prevalence of Android mindshare:
- Apple’s capricious app approval process is scary, and could result in hundreds of hours of work down the drain. Even if your app is ignored or unsellable, at least you can show it to people on the Android market.
- There’s an obvious (but not necessarily correct) metaphor between the early days of the smartphone market and the early days of the PC market, and if the market evolves in the same way the PC market does, Android will achieve OS hegemony. (I do not think this is the right analogy and the smartphone is a fundamentally different market. But I will address that in a future post.)
It’s a great, well-researched report, and an interesting read. Go over to mobiledevelopereconomics.com and check it out.
What platform do you think is winning? Leave a comment…