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App developers double down on Android tablets, says survey

Bet that prices will fall, creating mass market for their wares

January 25, 2011 11:41 AM ET

Computerworld - Mobile developers are betting that a wave of Android tablets this year floats their application boats, according to a survey published today.

The rush to cash in on an expected Android bonanza will also solidify the mobile race into a two-horse contest between Google and Apple, and put other operating systems into a hole that may be tough to climb out from, the survey said.

"The question from most developers is 'After iPhone, where do I go? Android or iPad?'" said Scott Schwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Mountain View, Calif.-based Appcelerator. "If you're interested in growing market share, then it's Android. Developers believe [Android tablets] will have a massive impact on consumer computing."

The poll, conducted two weeks ago by Appcelerator and research firm IDC, polled more than 2,200 developers who use Appcelerator's Titanium cross-platform compiler to produce mobile applications using JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

Of the developers surveyed, 92% said that they were "very interested" in creating apps for the iPhone, while 87% answered the same for Android-based smartphones, a five point jump since the last poll three months ago.

But it was the response to tablet app development that caught Schwarzhoff's eye.

"Android tablets picked up 12 points," said Schwarzhoff, "with 74% saying they were very interested." Apple's iPad, meanwhile, gained just three percentage points to 87% of the developers.

The quick climb by Android tablets in the survey, largely based on the scores of companies saying at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that they would launch such devices this year, makes Google's OS the one to watch in the tablet space during 2011, Schwarzhoff argued.

"This will be the theme to watch all year long," said Schwarzhoff. "The iPad will just roll along, no matter what's in the iPad 2. But Android will be the major wild card."

These days, developers have to wager on a platform long before it's popular, or risk being left in the dust by competitors, said Schwarzhoff. And that means Appcelerator's survey is just the current opinion by programmers of Android tablets' potential.

Nothing said that better than the number one factor that developers identified as crucial to the success of Android tablets: The price of the hardware.

"Our assumption was that Honeycomb would be the driving factor," said Schwarzhoff, referring to the upcoming version of Android designed for tablets. "But not only was it not first, it was fourth. The really surprising finding was that price was number one."

With so many Android tablets slated to ship this year -- by Schwarzhoff's count, 85 were announced at CES earlier this month -- price will be a competitive lever some will use to gain an edge, developers believe. And that, they're convinced, will mean market share.

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