Yesterday was a day of mixed messages for Google and the Android enthusiast community.
The good news is that everybody wants an Android phone! OK, well not everybody. But according to a Nielsen survey conducted between January and March of this year, more people want Android than iOS or Blackberry phones. 31% of respondents planned on getting a new phone and prefer Android, while a mere 30% prefer iOS. Blackberry grabbed 11%, Windows Phone 7 6%, and 20% of the people asked are just confused.
Pardon me for being flippant, I'm just not sure that a 1% advantage is really that relevant (particularly when there's no indication of when these people will buy, as far as I can tell). Android has made progress since a similar survey was conducted last July-September. Back then 26% of respondents said they prefered Android (and 33% iOS). So the indicators are trending in a good direction for Android, at least for now.
But then there's the bad news. Developers are apparently losing confidence in the platform, according to another survey, this one conducted by Appcelerator and IDC between April 11 & 13th of this month. 85% of developers said they were "very interested" in developing for Android phones, and 71% said the same for Android tablets. These numbers were down from 87% and 74%, respectively, in January. That's not a huge drop but the January numbers were up significantly from the September 2010 numbers. Interest in tablets in particular has stalled. The September numbers had 62% of devs very interested and the number jumped 12 points for January, so the decline seems more significant than 3 percentage points might otherwise indicate.
The reasons for flagging interest? 63% of devs point to Android fragmentation, 30% indicated weak sales of tablets and 28% cited multiple app stores.
Again on the tablet front, while 71% of developers were very interested in developing for Android tablets, when the survey asked about specific tablets numbers dropped. 52% wanted to develop for the Samsung Galaxy Tab, 44% for the Motorola Xoom and 31% for the not-yet-released HTC Flyer. Other tablets got minimal attention. So devs seem to be waiting for a 'killer' Android tablet to hit the market. I'm not sure that'll happen any time soon with so many choices spread across so many retail outlets.
All that said, Android still has a firm hold of second place in the developer excitement race. 29% of developers are very interested in developing for Windows Phone 7 (and that was a fall of 7 points) and interest in Blackberry fell 11 points to 27%.
Now that more Android tablets are hitting the market, it'll be interesting to see if interest in developing for these tablets picks back up. I guess it'll depend on how many are sold, and how consistent the Honeycomb experience is. Certainly at this point there are plenty of Tegra 2, Honeycomb models hitting the market. They all seem very similar from a consumer point of view, at least.
Perhaps its time for Google to give away more hardware. Android cannot afford to lose its nacent developer community. Without a steady supply of new and interesting apps, I believe consumer interest will fade. People love their apps.