Mobile Developers Flocking to Tablets in Wake of iPad’s Launch, Survey Shows

If mobile software developers were reserving judgment about tablet computers as a platform for new apps and services, the events of the last three months—principally, of course, the advent of the iPad—seem to have changed their minds. Developers are stampeding to tablets now, and it’s about more than just the iPad.

Mountain View, CA-based Appcelerator found that that an overwhelming number of developers, 84 percent of those responding to a survey last week, are very interested in creating apps for the iPad. That’s a big step up from just 53 percent who said the same thing in Appcelerator’s last survey in March (before the iPad’s release). A large group, 62 percent, said that they were also very interested in developing for the coming batch of Android-powered tablets. The findings are based on responses Appcelerator received this month from its quarterly survey of more than 50,000 developers, some 2,700 of whom responded.

The survey results, which the company shared yesterday, also revealed that the competing mobile platforms are in an increasingly desperate struggle against Android and iOS (the iPhone/iPad operating system) for developer mindshare. Only about one-third (34 percent) of developers responding to the survey said they were very interested in building apps for BlackBerry smartphones; 27 percent were very interested in Windows Phone 7, 15 percent in Symbian, 13 percent in Palm/Web OS, 11 percent in MeeGo (a mobile version of Linux promoted by Intel and Nokia), and 6 percent in Amazon’s Kindle.

“It’s really an Apple and Google chess game now, while everyone else plays catch-up,” says Scott Shwarzhoff, vice president of marketing at Appcelerator.

The three-year-old startup, which was founded in Atlanta but moved to the Bay Area soon after, helps Web-focused developers adapt their software for mobile platforms. Using Titanium, an open-source set of application programming interfaces created by Appcelerator, programmers who are versed in Web languages like JavaScript or PHP can more easily build native mobile applications that run on iPhones, iPads, or Android devices.

Every three months since January, Appcelerator has surveyed programmers who use its services to find out what mobile platforms developers are most excited about, and therefore which platforms Appcelerator itself should be supporting.

When Appcelerator first asked its users whether they were interested in writing software for the iPad, back in January, 58 percent said yes. That number fell 5 percentage points in March, but now that developers have had some time to see and play with the iPad, it has jumped by 31 points.

“As an early indicator of the health of the iPad ecosystem, I think this is a very strong showing,” says Schwarzhoff.

So why did it interest in the iPad tail off between January and March, and why weren’t more developers interested from the beginning?

“I think it’s a whole combination of factors,” says Schwarzhoff. “Unlike the iPhone, which was just improving upon previous phones, the iPad is a brand new category, so the category is being proven along with the device. Also, … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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