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VisionMobile is the leading research company in the app economy. Our Developer Economics research program tracks developer experiences across platforms, revenues, apps, tools, APIs, segments and regions, via the largest, most global developer surveys.

[Report] Developer Economics 2011 – Winners and losers in the platform race

[Who is leading in the platform race – and who's lagging behind? Marketing Manager Matos Kapetanakis examines the flow of developer mindshare and discusses how success is measured in the app era – in part 1 of our 3-part blog series on our newly released Developer Economics 2011 report.]

Developer Economics 2011 – free download here – has been created by VisionMobile and sponsored by BlueVia.

VisionMobile - Developer Economics 2011 - Platform race

Developers driving innovation


The role of mobile developers has changed dramatically over the past three years, from a lowly position as back-room engineers to the much-sought-after engine that drives mobile software innovation. Never before have developers, from big development houses to aspiring students to garage entrepreneurs, had such an enormous impact in mobile industry innovation and dynamics.

Handset manufacturers, platform vendors and even network operators (or carriers to our American readers) are competing over who’s going to build the biggest developer community, as success today is measured in terms of thousands of apps and billions of downloads. Platform and OS vendors are the most active in this game, trying to steer developer mindshare towards their platform and create a new plateau of innovative services, as well as a whole ecosystem around them.

So, which platforms lead the race and which are lagging behind?

The platform race

In the platform race for developer mindshare, there are some clear winners. According to our research, the developer mindshare is firmly flowing towards Android and iOS, with 67% of developers currently using Android and 59% using iOS.

VisionMobile - Developer Economics - Developer Mindshare

These figures show a considerable increase since last year, with the two platforms climbing nearly 10%. In contrast, the ‘old guard’ comprised of Java and Symbian are leaking developer mindshare.

However, the most surprising finding is the adoption of mobile web, i.e. the platform for apps written in HTML or JavaScript, which claimed the 3rd spot in terms of developer mindshare, being used by over 55% of the developers. We do not attribute this to the ease of learning this platform (which has a deceptively steep learning curve, as you can see in the full report), but rather the influx of non-mobile developers to the industry. Also, mobile web is fast becoming the de-facto cross-platform choice for developers, especially now that Java and Flash are waning. In addition, there is a veritable host of HTML-to-native development tools that are helping HTML/JavaScript developers target smartphone native app markets.

More on Developer Mindshare in the full report.

It’s also worthwhile to take note of the Developer Intentshare, i.e. the platforms that developers are planning to use.

VisionMobile - Developer Economics 2011 - Intentshare

Android still reigns supreme, but the surprise comes in the form of Windows Phone, which is fast becoming a developer favourite. Despite lukewarm sales in 4Q10 and 1Q11, the newly revamped Microsoft platform has managed to gain the vote of developers.

This can be attributed to a number of reasons: First and foremost, Microsoft has actually released a competitive platform with a strong toolset. Also, the platform’s future seems bright, after the now-famous Finnish Deal. Finally, Microsoft has invested a lot of time (and money) into attracting developers, tapping into the Xbox and Silverlight developer communities to divert the flow of mindshare in their favour.

The inclusion of Chrome OS in the top 5 platforms in Intentshare is more a result of curiosity for Google’s dark horse platform – how will it stack up to other platforms? MeeGo also seems to be vibrant, which goes to show that strong developer communities go a long way in this software era.

In contrast, BlackBerry has lagged behind in Intentshare, suffering from fragmentation issues (see our full report for the surprising answer to which platforms are the most fragmented), as well as minor fixes to an aging platform.

Who’s lagging behind in the platform race? Symbian and Java have suffered the biggest losses in terms of developer mindshare. Nearly 40% of developers currently using Symbian and 35% of developers currently using Java ME are planning to abandon the platforms.

VisionMobile - Developer Economics 2011 - Abandon index

No surprises there, especially in the case of Symbian, which carries an expiration date, despite Nokia’s slow transition to the WP platform. Java’s loss of mindshare is less expected, especially considering the platform’s reach as global sales are still dominated by feature phones – but developers are not sticking around for that.

Palm’s platforms are also being rapidly abandoned by developers, since Palm is all but dead and HP has still to ship its first webOS handset.

What’s in a platform?

 

How do developers make that all-important decision of which platform to select? Well, according to our research, the biggest driver in platform adoption is large market penetration – a sentiment shared by 50% of our respondents, irrespective of the platform they spend most of their time on.

VisionMobile - Developer Economics 2011 - Platform adoption

But what exactly is market penetration? A platform’s installed base is an important aspect – i.e. just how many actual handsets can run a given app – but that is not all. Penetration is also measured in terms of a platform’s ability to reach users and that is also a factor of how and where that content is available. – a centralised distribution and discovery point, such as an app store, accessible by mobile devices, tablets and PCs goes a long way towards providing developers with a direct access to their customers.

Proving that there’s more to market penetration than a large installed base, we present the case of handsets sold vs. apps. There is a large discrepancy between the number of handsets sold and the number of apps available on a given platform.

VisionMobile - Developer Economics 2011 - Apps vs. sales

In an app economy with close to 1 billion [Update: million] apps, more than half of those are concentrated on two platforms: iOS and Android. It’s easily apparent from the graph that vastly more pervasive platforms in terms of total shipments, like S40 and Java claim just a fraction of the app pie. Granted, this is a smart-centric game, but even a pervasive smartphone platform like Symbian cannot much app to the two app moguls.

Do apps mean money? Not directly, but it’s no coincidence that 2011 marks the first time Apple overtakes Microsoft in terms of revenues and Android rushes past the finally burned-out Symbian platform in terms of shipments.

-Matos

Want more Developer Economics?

Follow us on Twitter (@visionmobile) for updates and stay tuned for part 2.

And for those of you who still haven’t done so, don’t forget to download the full report!

  • Funny Numbers

    Huh? "In an app economy with close to 1 billion apps, " — looks more like 600k.

    And 3 billion J2ME phones — is that since 2000? What % of those are still in action?

  • fritz

    the WP7 Marketplace has not 11'000 Apps in it. Its 20'000+ ! otherwise, good article, thanks!

  • http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/ VisionMobile

    @Funny Numbers
    Right now, the Apple App Store holds close to 500K apps, while Android Market has officially crossed the 200K barrier. Windows Marketplace is near 20K and App World is approaching 30K. Then, add bada's 15K apps, WAC's 12K, around 25K Java apps etc and you get the picture.

    As to the 3B Java handsets – the graph indicates total devices shipped, so it's shipments since each platform was launched

    @fritz
    Thanks for the feedback! The graph shows number of apps by the end of 1Q11 – as you said, it's now at 20K, showing that the Marketplace enjoys a healthy increase in app volumes.

  • Mark Wilcox

    I think the discrepancy being pointed out with app numbers is not the difference between end of 1st or 2nd quarters, or arguing about the difference between 800k and 1m but the fact that you claimed a billion apps when there are less than 1 million. :-)

  • mrY

    Guys you take things too literally, obviously there was a typo..

  • http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/ VisionMobile

    @Mark @mrY
    Yep, just a typo – it's been updated!

  • GoMo

    Thanks for the comprehensive study! Here is another interesting study: http://goo.gl/W673Z

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