There is no doubt, 2013 is going to be a very interesting year for the mobile industry. Apple and Google will continue to strive for worldwide domination with iOS and Android - making it very difficult for other competitors to squeeze out profits. The day of reckoning may be at hand for old school mobile players like Research In Motion and Microsoft even as manufacturers like Nokia , HTC and even Google-owned Motorola also fight for their lives.
On Friday, analyst firm International Data Corp (IDC) released its top 10 predictions for the information technology industry for 2013. Among several data points, IDC predicts a coming reckoning for RIM and Microsoft in the mobile industry if the companies cannot generate more developer interest in their mobile platforms.
App Developers Hold The Key
“The market power of these competing platforms – iOS, Android, Windows, and other mobile software platforms – will depend completely on the ability of each platform to attract large numbers of application (app) developers,” IDC states.
IDC goes on to cite its quarterly report in association with mobile services company Appcelerator of developer interest for each mobile platform. Android (smartphone and tablet) and iOS (iPhone/iPad) lead the way in developer interest, while Windows (33%) and BlackBerry (9%) trail significantly.
“IDC predicts that either of these two that fail to crack the 50% barrier [in developer interest] by the end of 2013 will be on the gradual track to demise for their platform,” the report states. “Expect some potentially radical changes to Microsoft Windows and Windows app pricing and licensing to help juice up Windows’ attractiveness to mobile app developers and mobile device users.”
How To Woo App Developers
Microsoft has long tried to encourage its developer ecosystem with various incentives, from free development tools to paying developers outright to build apps for its platform. In general, though, developers go where the eyeballs (and dollars) are - and right now that means iOS and Android. Microsoft will need a huge boost in Windows Phone sales from its primary manufacturing partners Nokia and HTC to generate any real interest from developers. Even with those challenges, Microsoft's 33% interest rate from developers for Windows 8 and related operating systems makes it much better positioned for 2013 than is Research In Motion.
RIM has spent a good portion of 2012 traveling around the world trying to rally developers to its upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform. The BlackBerry 10 Jam World Tour has made stops in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Clearly, RIM does not need to be told that the success of its new operating system will hinge directly on developer enthusiasm.
Earlier this week, RIM rebranded its BlackBerry App World to BlackBerry World and announced several incentives for developers that move to build for the BlackBerry10 platform. In conjunction with Appcelerator, RIM is offering free BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha devices to the first 1,000 developers that submit applications for review. In addition, up to 10,000 developers will be eligible to receive one free year of Appcelerator Cloud Services and Analytics through RIM. Appcelerator has made its Titantium development platform available to BlackBerry app creators and the two companies showed off the integration this week in Bangkok, Thailand.
RIM also recently commissioned an independent survey of developers and touts some of the findings as encouraging. For instance, RIM states that 8% of developers surveyed consider BlackBerry to be their primary development platform, a 5% increase.
While those numbers may buoy RIM's hopes, they don't come close to satisfying IDC’s threshhold of 50% developer interest required to avoid a certain demise. We'll know soon, enough, though. BlackBerry 10 interest will likely spike at the end of January 2013 when RIM finally unveils the first smarpthones running the new operating system.
App developers: What could incent you to build apps for BlackBerry 10 or Windows Phone? Are smartphone sales the ultimate determining factor or can RIM and/or Microsoft sway you with free services, tools or other ? Let us know in the comments.
BlackBerry Windows "Frankenphone" artist conception by ReadWrite.