There's an inherent flaw in Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG
) Android operating system.
The flaw isn't a technical glitch.
In fact, most agree that Google's Android is a first-rate mobile operating system that has gotten better with each update. Some even prefer it to Apple's iOS.
It's not adoption either.
According to recent data from Nielsen, Android's U.S. market share among smartphones has reached 48%, compared to 32.1% for Apple's iPhone. And Google says it has activated more than 300 million Android devices.
The problem is partly the result of Google Android's overall success.
The biggest flaw is fragmentation and it will be what prevents Google from defeating Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL
) iPhone in the mobile computing wars.
There are simply too many versions of Android running on too many (over 1,400) different pieces of hardware. And the issue gets worse with each new version of Android, as older devices are rarely updated.
That's a huge problem for Android developers, who need to write apps that will work on a bewildering array of possible configurations. And it's starting to have an impact.
According to Appcelerator's most recent quarterly survey of developers, interest in writing apps for Android phones fell 4.7 percentage points to 78.6%, and interest in writing apps for Android tablets fell 2.2 percentage points to 65.9%.
By comparison, 89% of developers were interested in writing apps for Apple's iOS, a number that has remained steady.
"Massive platform fragmentation is a big reason that we're seeing this decline in interest," Mike King, Appcelerator's principal mobile strategist, told Network World
. "If you look at all the other numbers such as Android smartphone market share it's on the upswing, but for app developers it's a real challenge."
It's a headache iOS developers don't share. Most Apple customers stay current with the latest version of iOS.
And because Apple makes all the hardware, limited to just a handful of models, it's much easier to write an app that runs on nearly all of the millions of iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads in use.
Google Android Users Not Big Spenders
Making matters worse for developers is that Android users tend to spend less money on apps than owners of Apple devices.
According to a report last year by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, the Google Android Market (recently renamed Google Play) generated just 7% of the revenue of Apple's iTunes App Store.
Munster estimated that in terms of dollars spent on mobile computing apps, Apple has an 85%-90% share. He expects Apple's dominance of app revenue to remain over 70% for the next three to four years.
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