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Developers Flock to Android, Despite Thinking it is Terrible

Apr 4 2011, 4:47pm CDT | by , in News | Android

Developers Flock to Android, Despite Thinking it is Terrible

But are they gathering around a time bomb?

There's been a bit of a brouhaha recently over whether or not Android is worth developing for. Fred Wilson spent his weekend prophesying an Android eruption. Fortune kicked off the speculation by claiming that 2011 will be the year Android "explodes". But praise for Android was far from universal. Marco Arment, founder of Instapaper, warned developers away from Android and referred to it as a time bomb.

Many- including Wilson, see the mobile OS battle as highly analogous to the fight between the Windows and Macintosh platforms. That fight nearly lead to Apple's demise. And Android's position as the #1 smartphone platform does invite comparison to Windows. While Android is currently "open source", it's worth noting that Google has closed off Honeycomb from the public. And they aren't exactly consistent with what "open" means.

There's one very important difference between the Mac/PC battle and the current smartphone market: Money. Windows "won out" (although Mac share has been creeping back up, of late) because its wider adoption made it much more profitable to develop for. But iOS is much more lucrative as a development platform. Android users don't spend much money and Honeycomb's selection of tablet apps is pitiful at best.

That said- a number of factors point to the growing popularity of Android as an App platform. Developer interest in the platform is high and rising. As of January, it was nearly level with iOS.

But fragmentation continues to plague Google's OS. In a recent survey of 250 developers, 56% identified fragmentation as a meaningful or "huge" issue. The App Market's fragmentation was of particular concern. Android also drew fire for being more difficult to develop for than iOS. It received "poor marks" in App visibility and "ability to get paid". The next few months will show if Google's recent addition of in-app billing improves anything.

Despite the issues, 71% of respondents identified as developing for Android, while "only" 62% were working on iOS. This race is still too close to call. Fragmentation and the Verizon iPhone may indeed cause Android's collapse. And the App Market has a long road to travel before it is comparable to the App Store. But slowly- perhaps inexorably, Android is gaining.

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