Developers crazy about Apple tablet, survey says

90% want to build software for new device; productivity apps leads to-do list

Software developers are eager to start building applications for Apple Inc.'s expected tablet, according to a just-published survey from Appcelerator Inc., a maker of developer tools.

Of the 550 developers surveyed by Appcelerator, nine out of 10 said they plan on creating an Apple tablet application in the next year, said Scott Schwarzhoff, Appcelerator's head of marketing. "Developers are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the tablet," he said.

And even though the details of Apple's new product are unknown, the expected Apple tablet was the third most popular development platform among survey respondents, beating out some more established systems. According to Schwarzhoff, 58% of the developers polled identified the Apple tablet as one of their preferred development platforms, putting it behind the iPhone, named by 86% of the respondents, and Google's Android mobile operating system (68%), but well ahead of the BlackBerry (21%) and the Palm Pre (17%).

"I think there will be a lot of frenzy over the tablet, a lot of experimentation by developers," Schwarzhoff said.

Unlike other prelaunch clues, including metrics from devices being used on Apple's Cupertino, Calif., campus, which have pegged e-book applications and games as the most likely uses of an Apple tablet, the developers polled by Appcelerator were interested in a wider range of software. The top five categories for tablet development were business/productivity, entertainment, social networking, education and games, in that order.

"The biggest point is that developers don't see the tablet as just all about games," said Schwarzhoff. "Developers are thinking of the table as its own unique experience. Software doesn't have to be a mobile app, doesn't have to be a desktop app. The successful ones will realize that they can take some of their learning from mobile and some from the desktop, and experiment with something in between."

It wasn't a surprise, then, that the top vote-getter for anticipated tablet features was local data storage, with multitouch second and multitasking fourth.

"If you're an indie developer, this is a train you're going to jump on. You're going to be all over this, either as new app opportunities or conversions from iPhone apps," Schwarzhoff said. "But businesses and ISVs [independent software vendors] will likely go 'Hmm ... this is a third platform. I already have mobile and a Web site to maintain, help me understand and rationalize what I should be doing.'"

Because of their popularity, especially on other mobile platforms like the iPhone, Schwarzhoff expects to see social networking software and applications with local uses almost immediately on the tablet.

Appcelerator will add the APIs for core tablet features to its Titanium framework as soon as possible, assuming Apple releases an SDK (software developers toolkit) at the same time it reveals the tablet.

"For the most-requested features, we can [get them into Titanium] within a couple of weeks to a couple of months," said Schwarzhoff. Appcelerator hopes to add support for the most-requested features -- including multitasking, any advanced multitouch gestures that the tablet supports, and tablet-specific user-interface components -- almost immediately. Assuming Apple releases an SDK, Appcelerator plans to announce its tablet support timetable on Thursday.

Frequently compared to Adobe Air, Appcelerator's Titanium lets Web developers create native iPhone, Android, PC, Mac and Linux applications using JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub will live-blog Apple's event today starting at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, send e-mail to or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed .

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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