In the battle for the hearts and minds of enterprise mobile developers, Apple's iOS has taken a commanding lead as businesses show concern over Android, according to a recent survey of mobile developers by Appcelerator and IDC. Does Android's weakness in the enterprise open the door for Microsoft to get back in the game?
"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 of 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 Appcelerator/IDC 2Q 2012 Mobile Report, based on a survey of 3,632 developers around the world, found that 53.2 percent of developers feel Apple's iOS will win in the enterprise, compared with 37.5 percent who feel Android will win. This is a dramatic 16 point shift from just three quarters ago, when developers felt they were in a dead heat at 44 percent each.
"Kind of contrary to the conventional wisdom, Apple's focus on the enterprise is netting results," says Michael King, director of Enterprise Strategy for Appcelerator, provider of multi-platform tools for mobile app development.
Enterprises Concerned by Android Fragmentation, Malware
King says Appcelerator and IDC believe Apple's success (and Android's difficulty) among enterprise developers is based upon a number of factors, including the following:
- Increasingly high levels of Android fragmentation, leading to increasing complexity of enterprise device and software management
- Frequent stories of Android malware, compared to relatively few reports of iOS malware, which creates concerns among enterprise IT management
- Anecdotal, but increasingly consistent, reports of IT managers re-evaluating potential enterprise-wide support for Android beyond simpler implementations like email access or M2M
- The success of the Apple iPad in a number of industry verticals, which creates a halo effect for iOS devices including iPhone in the enterprise
Developers Like Metro UI for Windows 8
Both Appcelerator and IDC are careful to note that the full effect of Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility and its IT management and support assets have yet to be felt in the market. But with Microsoft about to enter the field with Windows 8 tablets and phones, Android's failure to take the enterprise market by storm may just give Microsoft the opening it needs.
"We see an opportunity for Windows 8 in the enterprise," King says. "Our developers think the Metro UI is cool. They're optimistic about Windows 8, but they're also very cautious. They're not really excited about developing for Windows 7, and they also believe the Lumia launch has been pretty lame to date. While they're very optimistic about Window 8, they're not committing a lot of resources yet."
Fully 33.3 percent of developers say they are very interested in developing for Windows 8 tablets, which IDC notes is an objectively strong number for a device class that has not yet been made commercially available. Microsoft's much touted Metro UI may play a role in that developer excitement, as 43.8 percent of developers say they find it beautiful and different compared with iOS and Android, and 28.5 percent say it is helping them rethink how to more effectively engage their users.
Microsoft's commitment to both ARM-based and x86-based devices may also help push it over the top if Microsoft can get it right, the report found. Providing a clear path and tools to help developers port their apps for ARM-based devices (like the iPad) to x86-based devices (like most PCs) could win over developers, 65 percent of whom are looking for the ability to provide consistent app user experiences across smartphones, tablets and PCs. A majority of developers (50.2 percent) also want the ability to efficiently reuse code when porting their apps.
Given Android's current weakness in the enterprise and the dramatic fall of the Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry-developer interest in developing for the BlackBerry 10 platform fell from 40 percent to 24 percent between the first quarter of 2012 and the second quarter-Appcelerator and IDC believe Microsoft has an opportunity to displace Android as the number two mobile operating system in the enterprise.
Android Still Shows Key Strengths
Meanwhile, the good news for Android is that it has managed to arrest its sinking popularity with developers, particularly developers of consumer apps, after four quarters of declining numbers. The report found 78.1 percent of developers say they are "very interested" in developing apps for Android phones, just slightly down from 78.6 percent of developers who said the same in the first quarter. And 68.8 percent said they were "very interested" in developing apps for Android tablets, up from 65.9 percent in the first quarter.
Appcelerator and IDC attribute Android's stabilization to the following factors:
- Enormous growth in Android device shipments that is outweighing developer concerns about fragmentation
- Lower Android price points compared with iOS are creating opportunities to reach a broader audience
- Rapid Android handset growth in developing markets is demonstrating the importance of Android for global app strategies
- The recent success of Amazon's Android-based Kindle Fire has demonstrated market opportunities for lower-priced and smaller tablets
- The integration of Android Market into Google's now broad Google Play set of offerings can provide network effects analogous to Apple's iTunes and App Store.
Thor Olavsrud covers IT Security, Big Data, Open Source, Microsoft Tools and Servers for CIO.com. Follow Thor on Twitter @ThorOlavsrud. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Thor at email@example.com