The introduction of smartphones and their respective application stores has led to an astounding explosion of mobile applications. From social networking to insanely addictive games, mobile users across all of the major platforms now have access to nearly one million applications for use from their smartphones and tablets. Such has also led to a very heated race for the biggest, baddest platform with the most applications.
While the age-old debate about which platform is best could go on without end, there's no denying who the clear winner is when it comes to application support. Apple originally launched App Store in July of 2008. Eight months later, Google countered with the announcement and launch of Android Market. From that time, Android has been playing catch-up. Of the one million mobile applications out there, Apple's App Store is home to just short of 600,000 applications for iOS devices; at nearly half of that, Android Market touts a still respectable 320,000 applications.
Whether it's because iOS is simply easier to develop for, because iOS development has proven to be more profitable or because some developers simply do not like Android, Apple's iOS has been the go-to platform for developers from the get go. Applications have been launching on iOS first and slowly making their way to Android from the very beginning. For instance, Angry Birds, Skype and many others were available on iOS long before they ever made an appearance on Android. And some like Instagram and Flipboad – extremely popular applications – have been available on iOS for some time now, as Android users can only hope and pray the apps will eventually land in Android Market. This is one of the very reasons I took the plunge and went iPhone back in July.
Eric Schmidt, at the LeWeb conference today in Paris, France, expressed how he believes Android 4.0 could change all of that to a skeptical crowd of Mac, iPhone and iPad users. Schmidt stated:
"Ultimately, application vendors are driven by volume, and volume is favored by the open approach Google is taking. There are so many manufacturers working to deliver Android phones globally," and, "Whether you like Android or not, you will support that platform, and maybe you'll even deliver it first."
Stephen Shankland of CNET states, "One Android-toting audience member said he was frustrated to see iOS apps beating Android versions to market." Schmidt, however, believes all of that could change with Ice Cream Sandwich and predicts that in six months from now, people will be saying the opposite – that iOS users will be complaining about Android getting dibs on apps first.
While I would love nothing more than to see applications debuting on Android first, I find it hard to believe that something as miniscule as a platform update – which, in its defense, brings some much-needed aesthetic and design changes to Android – can completely change how developers approach the development process across multiple platforms. And Android as a whole has been far ahead in terms of sales and market share for some time now. That's nothing new. Apple's thorough application approval process has worked wonders in keeping App Store mostly free of malware, while it's a rapidly growing issue on Android. And development for iOS is still less painful and, on average, yields a higher income.
For the time being, not much will change, especially not in six months.
That said, Schmidt does have a point. Android has numbers. Although Android developers don't manage to bring in quite as much cash flow as iOS developers, there are hundreds of millions of users with cash in hand, waiting to throw money in a developer's direction for just the right app. Money is money, and not taking advantage of millions upon millions of users is silly and it only means such developers are okay with operating at half capacity. I would hope, at least, that some developers recognize this and begin to bring their applications to Market sooner rather than lollygagging around and only driving Android customers up the wall in anticipation.
Who knows, maybe Schmidt was just running his mouth as usual. Or maybe he knows something we don't. Maybe the Android team has something huge up their sleeve. After all, they decided to push the game-changing features back to Jelly Bean. It's entirely possible that such changes could be major upgrades and additional features for developers. I'm not betting on it, but there could definitely be more to what Schmidt is saying than we know. And the fact that he gives a six-month window only makes me want to believe it more.
So, ladies and gents, do you think Android has what it takes to steal developers' attention from iOS? Will Ice Cream Sandwich mark a change in application development history? Or was Schmidt just blowing smoke?
Image via CNET