[Article reproduced from Appnomy, a community portal for app developers to gain visibility and connect to other app developers]

The past few years have seen an unprecedented growth in the mobile market. The main reason for this has been the introduction of the App Store model of distribution that has driven this growth, a strong and robust app distribution model that helps developers monetize their apps like never before. In this highly lucrative market, developers are still undecided on the platform to concentrate on as every platform has its strengths and weaknesses. Fragmentation and visibility being the top concerns in the minds of the developers as more and more developers plunge head first into app development business. I think we can all agree that a mobile platform is only as good as the apps that are available on it. This can be inferred from the growth and popularity of some of the app stores currently available on various platforms. Apps drive platform adoption and users drive app development, but these are not the only two factors that determine the success of  a mobile platform.

A mobile platform is driven by an extensive collaboration by various parties starting from the platform publisher ( Apple Google Microsoft) , network operators, advertising networks, handset OEMs, app developers and last but by no means the least, end users. Each party contributes and benefits from the platform leading to a truly sustainable ecosystem. Nonetheless the importance of apps cannot be stressed enough. A recent report released by VisionMobile on Developer Economics highlights some of the current trends and statistics in the world of mobile apps.

Platforms and how developers view them:

The story of last year has been interesting to say the least, and for the first time Apple’s domination of the mobile app development interest has seen some serious competition from Google’s Android. Although these platforms are still the top two platforms with 67% of app developers currently developing for Android and 59% for Apple’s iOS.

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Windows is gearing up for a fight, but that’s the only thing its been doing since it was unveiled last year. Microsoft is determined to do this one right but in the process may have dropped out of favour with the developers as they don’t see it as a commercially viable option. Microsoft’s partnership with Nokia may prove to a game changer in the future when Nokia starts rolling out their first WP7 powered devices, building on Nokia’s manufacturing business will be an advantage. WP7 comes in second after Android as the platform in which developers plan to invest in the future.

Symbian and Java are the two platforms that developers see as sinking ships. Symbian especially, as we all know, has an expiry date and Nokia has confirmed that. Nearly 40% of developers currently using Symbian and 35% of developers currently using Java ME are planning to drop the platforms. Java ME is still the most vastly deployed platform having been embedded on more that 3 billion handsets.

Developers are now more open to trying out new platforms and use an average of 3.2 platforms, based on the samples taken by VisionMobile, this is a 15% rise over the previous years figures.

The economics

Looking at the business of app development, developers rate large market penetration as the number one factor when it comes to picking a platform. Money plays an important part but reach is more important to developers to make inroads into this market. Only about 25% developers put money or the ability to make money as the most important factor.

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The Appnomy, as we call it here at Pi, is a high risk high reward game. About a third of all developers make less than $1,000USD per application, this makes application development a loss making proposition considering that it may take months to develop an app.

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Approximately 50% of app developers in the survey make money through a salary or commission, this confirms that corporate monetization is becoming as important as making money directly through applications.

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Not all mobile platforms have equal potential for monetization. Apple’s iOS tops the per application revenue graph.

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A major factor in the economy of applications is the distribution model. Although it is the best yet, there are still some disagreements when it comes to payments. The role of operators in the app market is still unclear with some preferring operator billing for app and others not.

Advantages and challenges of the app store model.

The revolution that the App Store model has brought about is truly fantastic and has changed the app development market forever. App Stores with the advantage of good reach, visibility and variety of monetization opportunities are the go to channel for app distribution.

45% of mobile app developers use the App Store  model across 8 platforms that were studied.

While developers fret over platform fragmentation problems, the problem of app store fragmentation is more serious. With over fifty plus app stores and growing the need to put app on that one extra app store does bother developers and contrary to popular perception, it does affect revenue cost of every developer.

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Games are still the highest grossing category in app stores.

The app development market is a tricky one as a developer needs to not only look at the technical difficulties of development but also the commercial ones.

What are some of the challenges that you face as a developer? Do share.

The report can be downloaded from here.

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