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Mobile apps move to the enterprise

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Developers focused on creating Apple-based mobile applications for the enterprise are set to take the app development lead – although developers interested in Microsoft’s Windows 8 and those focusing on cloud services will play a big role in mobile apps moving forward.

Mobile platform company Appcelerator and International Data Corporation (IDC), announced results of a new joint survey of more than 3 500 Appcelerator developers from around the world. This is the largest developer survey conducted in the series.

“The big news is that Apple’s iOS took a dramatic lead over Google’s Android in the enterprise app space,” says Scott Ellison, vice-president, Mobile and Connected Consumer Platforms at IDC. “For developers, Android appears to be evolving more towards a consumer play, which in turn provides a key competitive opening for Microsoft in the enterprise mobile app space.”

The most significant finding in the 2Q 2012 Mobile Developer Survey is Apple opening a dramatic 16% lead over Google’s Android when it comes to which operating system will win in the enterprise marketplace, with 53.2% saying iOS will win versus 37.3% saying that Android will win. This is a very significant change in the past three quarters compared to 3Q 2011 when developers viewed iOS and Android in a dead heat at 44% each.

Appcelerator and IDC attribute this to the growing strength of Apple in the enterprise – most notably since the adoption of the iPad, regular reporting of Android malware, enterprise challenges in dealing with Android fragmentation, and resulting anecdotal reporting of enterprises re-evaluating widespread Android deployment outside of particular business vertical implementations such as M2M.

However, the 2Q 2012 Mobile Developer Survey Report contains some good news for Google, as Android seems to have arrested the noticeable erosion of developer interest over the last four quarters, which Appcelerator and IDC noted in the 1Q 2012 report. The huge growth in Android device shipments – especially handsets – and more affordable price points are outweighing steadily increasing Android ecosystem fragmentation and monetisation challenges.

Developers are cautiously optimistic about Windows 8 tablets, and find Microsoft’s Metro UI especially compelling. Therefore a key dynamic to watch going forward will be Microsoft’s opportunity to eclipse Android as the number two operating system priority for mobile enterprise app developers, especially given Microsoft’s strengths in the enterprise market through Office and Windows. This survey report also shows the path forward for Microsoft and its software partners in terms of engaging developers to port ARM-based apps for smartphones to x86-based PC-like architectures such as Windows 8 tablets.

Finally, mobile developers remain strongly committed to the cloud: 83% of all developers plan to use cloud services and also intend to use a cloud solution for the back end. This percentage remains consistent with our findings in the 2Q 2011 survey. Apple’s iCloud and Amazon’s cloud platform offerings are at the top of surveyed developers’ plans, while Microsoft’s Azure trails with comparatively tepid interest. This underscores the need to connect mobile applications to cloud-based services such as Appcelerator Cloud Services (ACS) within the next year. It also highlights the challenges facing Microsoft in translating its enterprise strengths in Azure, Windows, and Office into the mobile space.

According to this quarter’s survey, 66% of mobile application developers use multiple platform development tools to build apps. The primary motivations for using these tools are the sheer number of mobile operating systems that a mobile app must address and the fragmentation of those individual operating systems. The number of apps that developers are building for either their employees or their customers amplifies the value of these tools.

Key findings of the 2Q 2012 Appcelerator/IDC Mobile Developer Report include the following:

* iOS has opened a dramatic 16% lead over Android in the mobile enterprise apps space. Developers now think iOS will win over Android in the enterprise 53%-37%; in 3Q 2011 iOS and Android were tied at 44%.

* Android has arrested its decline in developer interest. After a noticeable erosion of developer interest over the last year, developer “very interested” Android handset levels stabilized in 2Q 2012 compared to 1Q 2012 and Android tablet “very interested” levels ticked up 2.9%.

* Android’s perceived weakness in the enterprise is a key Microsoft opportunity. Developers’ dropping interest in Android in the enterprise is a key opportunity for Microsoft to displace Android as the number 2 mobile OS in the enterprise on its goal towards number one.

* Developers are cautiously optimistic about Windows 8 tablets. 33.3% of developers say that they are very interested in Windows 8 tablets. This is an important data point for Microsoft to leverage by translating its strength in the enterprise into the mobile OS space.

* Developers have distinct needs when porting ARM-based mobile apps to x86-based devices like Windows 8 tablets. These needs include: the ability to support consistent user experiences; the ability to reuse as much code as possible; and tools to assist porting between architectures.

* Developer interest in Windows Phone 7 phones dropped sharply. WP7 “very interested” levels dropped from 37.0 % in 1Q 2012 to 25.0% in 2Q 2012. This was not unexpected given disappointing WP7 handset sales to date and Nokia’s recently reported competitive challenges.

* Mobile developers remain committed to the cloud. 83% of all developers plan to use cloud services, essentially identical to 2Q 2011 when 84% reported the same.

* iCloud and Amazon lead among developers in their cloud platform plans. 50.4% of developers plan to work with iCloud and 49.1% plan to work with Amazon, but only 18.6% plan to work with Microsoft’s Azure.

* Push notifications, social integration, and authentication are the top three planned uses for cloud services. These relatively simple uses of the cloud by mobile developers highlight how nascent the mobile cloud still is as of 2Q 2012.