Research roundup: Mobile apps here to stay, Android piques developer interest

This week has seen a flurry of research released on the mobile world. Among the key findings: the mobile app market is set to explode, Android is narrowing the gap with iPhone for developer interest and tablets are driving increases in computer shipments.

Mobile apps not just a fad, says Gartner

Let's start with the mobile app market, which is set to triple its revenues in 2011 according to research firm Gartner. In all, Gartner projects that mobile apps will generate $15.1 billion in revenue this year, a 190% increase from the $5.2 billion in revenue it generated last year. Gartner also says that mobile app downloads will reach 17.7 billion in 2011, more than double the 8.2 billion mobile apps downloaded in 2010.

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What's more, Gartner doesn't see mobile apps as just a fad, as it predicts that users will have downloaded a total of 185 billion mobile applications by the end of 2014, meaning users will have downloaded an average of more than 30 billion applications per year between 2008 and 2014. However, Gartner does think that users will start to become more selective in the apps they download and that apps will have to deliver a better user experience than what they get over the Web if they want to have staying power.

"Many are wondering if the app frenzy we have been witnessing is just a fashion, and, like many others, it shall pass," says Stephanie Baghdassarian, research director at Gartner. "We do not think so... We strongly believe there is a sizable opportunity for application stores in the future. However, applications will have to grow up and deliver a superior experience to the one that a Web-based app will be able to deliver."

Android piques interest but iPhone still king, says IDC

So we know that apps are big. But what platforms will most apps be available on?

IDC and Appcelerator surveyed over 2,220 mobile application developers and found that Apple's iPhone was the most popular platform, followed closely by Android and the iPad. According to the survey, 92% of mobile app developers said they were "very interested" in developing apps for the iPhone, while 87% said the same of Android phones and the iPad. Android tablets also generated significant interest, as 74% of developers said they were interested in developing apps for that platform.

No operating system besides Android and iOS received significant interest from more than half of the developers surveyed, however. Trailing far behind the two popular operating systems were BlackBerry, which garnered 39% interest for its phones and 28% interest for its PlayBook tablet, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, which garnered interested from 36% of developers surveyed. HP's webOS tablet platform trailed further behind still, attracting significant interest from only 16% of developers surveyed.

Although Windows Phone 7 trails significantly in the survey, IDC does note that it does have some serious momentum, as its 36% interest rating represents a jump of eight percentage points from the previous IDC/Appcelerator developer survey.

Tablet sales driving global PC market, says Canalys

And finally, research firm Canalys reports that the PC market grew an impressive 19% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2010, driven in no small part by the rise of the Apple iPad.

Canalys says the iPad has been such a hit for Apple that the company actually ranked third in the world for total PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010, leapfrogging industry stalwarts such as Lenovo and Dell while trailing only HP and Acer. Canalys says Apple shipped 11.5 million PCs including iPads in the fourth quarter of 2010, more than triple the 3.4 million PCs it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009, right before its iPad officially hit the market.

"Pads gave the market momentum in 2010, just as netbooks did the year before," says Canalys analyst Daryl Chiam, who also explained why his firm decided to categorize tablets as PCs in its analysis. "With screen sizes of seven inches or above, ample processing power, and a growing number of applications, pads offer a computing experience comparable to netbooks. They compete for the same customers and will happily coexist."

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