How developers mix and match mobile platforms

We used to same data from our survey of 6,000+ app developers to see the multi-platform world from a different angle. We know that 78% of developers use at least one secondary platform concurrently with their primary one. We then asked: which platform do iOS, Android, WP, BB10 and HTML5 (mobile) developers use as a second preference? The next chart shows a very telling picture of how developers mix and match mobile platforms.

How developers mix and match mobile platforms

We knew that Android would be the most popular second choice for iOS developers – which the data confirms as 69% of iOS developers use Android. The picture is different for Android developers, who use iOS as a second platform (40%), just ahead of HTML5 mobile (29%).

BlackBerry 10 developers show very low preference for iOS (7%), but much higher for HTML5 (30%) and Android (23%), which is sensible given that BB10 supports both HTML5 and Android apps, offering cross-platform synergies. We also observe a preference for Android developers  towards BlackBerry 10 as a secondary platform by developers who mainly use Android as they can, in many cases, easily port their apps across to BlackBerry 10.

Windows Phone developers are in their vast majority (58%) using Windows 8 as their secondary platform with only Android as a distant second (18%).

As far as HTML5 mobile developers are concerned, they prefer Android (32%) or iOS (39%) as secondary platforms,  since they can develop hybrid apps and  sell them via native app stores, thus leveraging the monetisation and reach advantage that both these platforms provide against others.

The economics of apps make it extremely difficult for challenger platforms to compete against the duopoly, which has well established network effects working in its favour. Asking a developer to switch to a different platform is like asking someone to learn a foreign language – it’s a task that takes months if not years of disciplined effort to master. And it’s not just about the language (Objective C, Java, HTML or JavaScript) itself. It’s the set of APIs, development environment, publishing process, and the 3rd party tools ecosystem that supports the platform.

“Learning a language nowadays is not very hard, they all look the same (literally). Really what you have to learn is the API.”

Jean-Jacques Dubray, Founder, Convergence Modeling

The earlier chart shows how developers’ preference on mixing and matching platforms depends highly on the level of synergies that can be achieved – whether it is easy porting across platforms (e.g. Android to BB10 or Windows Phone to Windows 8), or leveraging the same codebase (e.g. HTML of JavaScript) to both hybrid (e.g. PhoneGap -based) and browser-based apps. This goes back to our earlier argument about asymmetric competition: the easiest way to compete with the duopolists is not head-to-head, but by challenging their control points. Diluting the app creation control point means exactly that: making it easy for developers to target a much wider device base with the same development tools and APIs.

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