[Survey] Calling all developers: Making sense of a fragmented world

[Calling all developers: VisionMobile launches the most ambitious developer research to date. We also take the opportunity to look back at our past developer research to present some of the most interesting findings]

We ‘ve recently launched what is probably the most ambitious mobile developer research to date – benchmarking the developer experience across 400+ developers, all 8 major platforms (iPhone, Android, Symbian, Java ME, RIM, Windows Mobile, Flash Lite and mobile web) and the entire developer journey.

The project has been sponsored by Telefonica so that the research findings can be made freely available and widely publicized.

The most ambitious mobile developer research to date
Our research will take a closer look at developer needs and expectations by examining all aspects of the development life cycle, from design to delivery. More specifically, we’ll be looking at platform selection, platform features & application design, code development, tools &debugging, developer support, go-to-market and application marketing – as well as covering hot topics like open source and the future of network operators.

We ‘ve spent a long time in planning, peer reviewing and logistics of the research. Our methodology includes 200 one-on-one developer interviews over the phone in addition to an online survey and an in-depth hands-on platform benchmarks; we ‘ve designed this three-pronged methodology to combine quality, consistency and depth of analysis in what is the most ambitious mobile developer research to date.

Calling all developers
Are you a mobile developer? Register at visionmobile.com/developers to participate in our research via 30 minute one-on-one interviews.

We ‘re giving away a free MWC pass, a 500 EUR Amazon voucher and 20 wallcharts of the Mobile Industry Atlas which will be drawn out to participants. But do hurry, as the free MWC pass is only valid until Friday 5 February.

We have been excited in launching this project, as we believe this research will become a seminal point of reference for developer research, and provide new insights into every aspect of mobile application development. Plus – thanks to the generous sponsorship of Telefonica, the results will be freely available and widely disseminated in Q2 as part of the report Developer Economics 2010 and Beyond.

Cross-platform insights from our earlier survey
In view of our latest research, we’d like to share some noteworthy findings from our earlier developer research project.

Our research carried out during the first 8 months of 2008 included an online survey; we polled over 350 mobile developers across 60 countries and 5 platforms: S60, Android, Java, Windows and Linux.

We ‘ll share a small subset of 6 questions out of 40+ we polled during that survey – in what will probably be a small appetizer prior to the main course, i.e. our Developer Economics 2010 report coming in Q2 2010.

One of the most important questions we asked was also one of the most naive ones: What is your favourite mobile OS or platform?

Quite understandably, the S60 users and professionals went for S60 or Symbian in general, Android fans went for Android and so on. However, this is only half of the story.The Java group was the least ‘faithful’ to its platform, with only 62% of respondents citing Java as their favourite platform. The highest percentage of ‘faithful’ developers were those working with Linux, with 92%.  Linux was also the most popular platform, stealing away 3% of S60 and Java users and 7% of Android and Windows users. The next graph shows preferences for platforms, based on platform selected for survey. Note that all graphs are normalized to a total of 100 developers.

What is your favourite platform?

The next logical question after the ‘what’ is the ‘why’. Why is this your favourite OS or platform?

The answer on most people’s lips was ‘ease of use’, followed by ‘rich APIs’. ‘Faster to program with’ and ‘better dev tools’ were also popular answers, while financial and self-promotion reasons were almost non-existent.

How the world has changed in just under two years; post iPhone App Store, monetization and addressable market are much higher up in the agenda of mobile application developers.

Why do you prefer this platform or OS?

The most important factor in selecting an OS or platform was ‘feature-rich APIs’, while the least important was ‘responsive and accessible technical support’. It’s worth noting that Android developers seem to go for rich APIs, having the highest percentage, but complain about the lack of documentation (esp. in those early days of Android).

Most important factors in an OS or platform

In terms of the IDE, the vast majority of respondents believed theirs was lacking in terms of the UI editor for apps – which was particularly painful for Android and Java at that time. A well-integrated toolchain was another major pain point in the IDE for most developers.

What does the IDE lack?

It’s love or hate time! We’ll start with what developers love in their platforms. ‘Easy to use the APIs’ was the most popular answer, followed closely by ‘access to all APIs’. Linux and Android users were particularly impressed with access to all APIs, a sentiment not at all shared by their S60 colleagues. Windows users mostly went for ‘productivity due to the tools and environment’, while Java users preferred the ease of use of the APIs.

What do developers love about their platform?

What do developers hate about their platform? Well, most of them seemed peeved with the difficulties they faced in reaching the market; a reason that is mostly relevant to the way the market is set up (or was setup – in the pre- iPhone App Store era), rather than a fault in the platform. The main inherent fault most people found was the disparity between emulator and device performance, a view shared by all platform users except Android. Android users were also pleased with the production cost of the apps, as well as the support their platform offered. Unsurprisingly, less than half of the developers found something bad to say about their platform.

What do developers hate about their platform?

Of course the world of mobile development has gone through a sea of changes in the last two years. Apple introduced a single platform to target 50+ million handsets. GetJar, Apple and others paved the developer-to-consumer route to market. Google led the open source wave with the majority of the device platform published under a non-copyleft license. Adobe went back to square one introducing the Flash and Air runtimes to replace its fragmented Flash Lite installed base. And Palm left a thriving Palm OS developer community die a slow death. Mobile application development has gone through a roller-coaster history, with even more twists and turns behind the next corner.

So – stay tuned. The Developer Economics 2010 will tread new ground in understanding mobile developers, across platforms, regions and across the entire developer journey – and thanks to Telefonica’s sponsorship – we ‘ll be publishing the insights from the research far and wide.

Join in or spread the word!

– Matos

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