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Android losing developer interest but could beat out Facebook’s mobile plans

by Kristen Nicole

Android is a monster of Google’s own creation, dominating smartphones across the globe but stumbling over its own ecosystem in a series of fragmented OS releases, and slow integration with other Google platforms and services. The result is an interesting love-hate relationship developers are manifesting with the mobile OS, as app makers’ interest wanes in some areas but surges on the social side.

According to a recent report from IDC and Appcelerator, Android phones and tablets are slowly eroding in developer interest levels within Appcelerator’s network, dropping for four quarters in a row. This quarter, interest in Android phones dropped 4.7 percentage points to 78.6 percent of the total market share, with tablets dropping 2.2 percentage points to 65.9 percent. Oddly enough, developer interest continues to drag even as Android unit shipments continue to grow.

Fragmentation gives way to HTML5

This seems to highlight Android’s fragmentation across the board. As mobile strategies mature, so too must Android’s platform, and supporting the varied needs of the developer community will strengthen Android’s position in the long run. According to Appcelerator’s principal mobile strategist Mike King, Android’s decline “has everything to do with fragmentation; not just the devices but the monetization schemes as well.”

While Android is sandwiched between iOS and Windows as the second-most popular OS on Appcelerator’s developer platform, it’s not necessarily losing out right to iOS. HTML5 is expected to play a bigger role in the mobile app development space throughout 2012, shifting the market towards web apps with broader standards that work across all the rival operating systems. While native apps have dominated the space, this year will highlight HTML5 with more browser and hybrid apps, integrating native code and substantial amounts of HTML5. The modified approach is the latest iteration of a trend we’ve seen from mobile app developers these past two years, as they seek more direct interactions with consumers over allegiance to one particular OS.

Google’s opportunity to beat Facebook

Where Google really has an opportunity is on the social side, as the search engine’s extended product line is primed for Android integration. Developer interest is growing around social mobile trends, and Google is a front runner in this arena thanks to its range of assets including Google+, search, Gmail, Android and Google Play. This is an encouraging set up for developers’ social strategies in 2012, making Google much more attractive than Facebook for networking on the go. In fact, the IDC-Appcelerator report reveals that Google’s collection of products and services is more important to developer tactics than Facebook’s social graph.

“This translates into a big competitive opportunity for Google—and potential significant risk for Facebook—especially because developers perceive Google as innovating faster than Facebook,” said Scott Ellison, VP Mobile & Connected Consumer Platforms at IDC. “Add to that, Google itself is clearly gearing up to leverage its network effects, one example being the alteration of its privacy policies to allow sharing of user data across its services.”