Apple 2.0

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Android is a mess, say developers

April 4, 2011: 11:51 AM ET

A new survey analyzes the pros and cons of writing for various mobile platforms

Source: Baird

On the heels of the debate played out over the weekend between Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson and Instapaper's Marco Arment about whether it's wiser to be writing apps for Apple's (AAPL) iOS or Google's (GOOG) Android come the results a survey of 250 working developers released Monday by Baird's William Powers.

Wilson, a venture capitalist, has been advising developers to write first for Android, predicting that the iPhone vs. Android battle will turn out to be a replay of Windows vs. Macintosh.

Arment, a developer, thinks that's bad advice. He believes Android's market share gains may be illusory -- especially when the rise of the iPad is taken into account -- and that as a development environment, Google's OS has serious shortcomings.

Baird's survey suggests that developers have taken Wilson's advice. 71% of respondents said they were writing apps for Android vs. 62% for iOS. (None of the other platforms drew more than 27%.)

But the survey also suggests that programmers writing for Android are finding the ecosystem to be every bit as perilous as Arment predicted.

Among the problems that surfaced:

  • Device fragmentation. 56% of Android developers said that operating system fragmentation among the various Android devices was a meaningful or "huge" problem, a percentage that actually increased over the past three months.
  • Store fragmentation. Several developers expressed concern over Android app store fragmentation. "Generally," Baird reports, "developers seem to prefer a unified, single store experience like Apple's App Store."
  • Ease of development. iOS outscored Android, but both were considered far easier to develop for than, say, Research in Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry OS or Nokia (NOK) Symbian.
  • App visibility. "iOS continues to lead," Baird reports, "followed by Blackberry, with Android still receiving poor marks in this category." Developers are particularly concerned about the level of "junk" apps in the Android ecosystem.
  • Ability to get paid. iOS leads here too, followed by BlackBerry.
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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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