The results of research firm Ovum's latest mobile application developer survey show that Google's server-side APIs are preferred to mobile operators' own services by more than two to one.
Ovum reports that 60 percent of mobile developers are using or plan to use Google's server-side APIs when building applications, leaving the mobile operators behind at 25 percent of the developer audience.
When selecting partners for application development, the top requirements were (in order):
- Ease of development
- Breadth of platform functionality
- Good-quality SDKs
Google and Apple have done a tremendous amount of outreach to make their mobile and server platforms appealing to more developers. Accordingly, the survey results are not too surprising considering both the popularity of Google's applications as well as the fact that mobile operators haven't done enough to get developers interested in the services they offer via API.
A quick e-mail to a few developers I know resulted in them looking to figure out which carriers even offered APIs. And while the carrier APIs weren't well publicized, the development kits from Google for Android and from Apple for the iPhone were readily available.
There are two important issues to note from the survey results.
First, APIs continue to drive the adoption of cloud services (which Google provides) regardless of where the cloud-based data is to be consumed (in this case on mobile devices). This also reiterates the point that, the cloud doesn't have much to offer most developers.
Second, ease of development and distribution are driving developers to choose platforms--not carrier-offered functionality. Apple's App Store topped the distribution charts, with 74 percent of respondents distributing or planning to distribute their applications through it. Android Market, BlackBerry App World, and Windows Marketplace for Mobile all scored well with more than 50 percent of the sample supporting them.
Ultimately, content is what drives users to mobile applications. The fact that their data is accessible via API at Google or elsewhere is the real benefit. As the cloud and mobile applications continue to converge, APIs that allow secure access will be what encourages a larger developer ecosystem.