Android poised to dominate app development in 2011

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Jason Ankeny

Google's Android operating system continues to recalibrate the balance of power in the U.S. smartphone segment, capturing 21.4 percent of nationwide smartphone market share in Q3--up 6.5 percentage points quarter-over-quarter--according to data issued last week by digital measurement firm comScore. Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry OS remains the overall U.S. leader at 37.3 percent, down from 40.1 percent in Q2--Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS is unchanged at 24.3 percent, while Microsoft's Windows Phone slipped 2.8 percentage points to 10.0 percent. The comScore report followed days after market research firm NPD Group said devices running Android accounted for 44 percent of all smartphones sold in the U.S. during the third quarter, an 11 percentage point increase over the previous quarter; iOS held relatively steady, rising one percentage point quarter-over-quarter to 23 percent of U.S. smartphone sales, while BlackBerry plunged to 22 percent, down from 28 percent in Q2.

It's no surprise that Android software development is poised to explode in the year ahead, as developers diversify away from the iPhone. A new survey conducted by mobile advertising network Millennial Media identifies Android as the number one new app platform publishers plan to support in 2011: 29 percent of respondents say they intend to build their first Android apps during the coming year, joining the 23 percent of publishers already writing for the platform. It's also no shock that developers are ramping up their iPad initiatives--20 percent of respondents will support the Apple tablet next year, up from 21 percent this year. What is somewhat surprising is the developer enthusiasm for Microsoft's fledgling Windows Phone 7, with 20 percent of developers targeting the platform in the coming year.

Mobile developers may be moving in different directions in 2011, but there's overwhelming agreement that the next year portends significant revenue growth. Thirty one percent of respondents tell Millennial Media they expect application revenues to increase 100 percent or more in 2011, with another 17 percent anticipating an increase of 50 percent or more. Only 10 percent of developers believe revenues will remain flat.

One thing's for certain: Developers won't lack for channels to market and monetize their applications. Citing sources with knowledge of the moves, The Financial Times reports Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC is hiring staffers in preparation for the launch of an online storefront offering mobile applications optimized for the company's Android devices. Sources say HTC is bringing aboard content editors to curate the store, which will feature ebooks and digital magazines as well as apps--the manufacturer will assemble a small core staff headquartered in Taiwan, but will eventually expand to about 100 people in different locations worldwide. HTC faces an increasingly competitive Android application marketplace: In addition to Google's own Android Market effort, U.S. operator Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) is now rolling out its V Cast Apps storefront across its Android device line, online retail giant Amazon.com is readying the launch of its own Android app sales initiative and big-box electronics retailer Best Buy has said it is considering the idea as well. The Android gold rush is in full swing--and everyone's looking to cash in. -Jason