Developers shun Windows tablets, but give Windows Phone the thumbs up. Why?

Microsoft must be feeling whiplash today, with the latest developer survey showing record high interest in writing apps for Windows Phone, and record low interest for Windows tablets. Why so much interest in Windows Phone and so little in Window tablets?

Appcelerator and IDC have released their latest mobile trends report, tracking developer interest in various platforms. Overall, the big news is that Facebook is a big winner because developers are increasingly integrating their apps with Facebook. Also of note is that interest in HTML 5 is slipping. The survey covered the third quarter of 2013.

Microsoft watchers will focus on the news about developer interest in developing for Windows Phone and Windows tablets. The news is especially good for Windows Phone. As of the third quarter, 37% of developers were interested in writing apps for Windows Phone, up from 22% back in August of 2012. Between August 2012 and now, interest has been constantly up. Interest now matches what it was back in November of 2011.

The news is not so good for Windows tablets, with only about 33% to 34% of developers expressing interest in the third quarter. That's down from a high of about 37% in August 2012 -- right when Windows Phone was at its all time low. Between August 2012 and the third quarter of 2013, developer interest Windows tablets has declined every quarter, while developer interest in Windows Phone has increased every quarter.

The steady uptick in interest in Windows Phone isn't surprising. The platform has shown a slow but steady growth, and with Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's handset division, developers now know that Microsoft is in it for the long haul.

But why the waning interest in Windows tablets? Likely because of the drumbeat of bad news about Windows tablet sales. Until recently, sales have been dismal, with Microsoft forced to take a $900 million writeoff due to unsold Windows RT inventory.

I expect developer interest to increase for Windows tablets, though. By all accounts, Windows tablet sales are picking up. At times during the holiday selling season, the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 have been sold out at Microsoft's online story, Walmart, and Best Buy. Partially that's because Microsoft has become smarter about how many tablets they've manufactured and are better at matching supply to demand. But it's also because more people are interested in buying the tablets.

ChangeWave Research's most recent report found that 8% of people who plan on buying tablets in the next 90 days plan on buying a Surface. At Best Buy on Black Friday, the last generation Windows RT-based Surface was the top-selling item at Best Buy, beating Apple's iPad. And when TechCrunch analyzed Google Trends search data recently, it found that the Surface 2 outstripped past searches for its predecessors, the Surface RT and Surface Pro.

All that adds up to more sales and more good headlines. And where sales go, developers follow. So expect an uptick in developer interest in Windows tablets the next time Appcelerator and IDC release their mobile survey.

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