iPad iOS Update: Will It Be Enough To Keep App Developers?

Last Updated Nov 5, 2010 7:36 PM EDT

Apple (AAPL) has an iOS update due by November 7th -- good news for those experiencing a reported alarm bug and salt in the wound for those suing Apple over iOS 4 over terrible performance on earlier iPhones and even reports of the software turning those devices into bricks.

Another group anxious for the update are iPad owners. Such features as multitasking, folders, improved email, and better enterprise features will go well with the tablet and let it catch up to what the non-bricked handsets can do. Presumably developers are also looking forward to additional capabilities for the apps they want to sell (or even give away).

However, some new research suggests that for Apple's world domination plans, the updates had better tickle the fancy of those developers, because it seems that as many planning new apps for the iPad are readying software for Microsoft (MSFT) Windows Phone 7, and even more have Google (GOOG) Android on the brain. More on this -- after a quick look at an early review of iOS 4.2 from Today's iPhone:

The study was done by mobile ad network Millennial Media, and usually that's a negative because it so often means a self-selecting sample, which reduces the value of the information. However, in this case, Millennial worked with tech analyst site Digiday and a Stifel Nicolaus analyst.

All three talked to developers, advertisers, and publishers. Without more details on the study's methodology, you still need the salt shaker handy, and people talked about what they were planning, not what they were actually doing. Such a survey has the additional flaw that people often think that they will do one thing when they end up somewhere else. But it's interesting and at least worth considering:

It's no surprise to learn that Android may see the biggest growth next year, but it's nice to have actual numbers from developers. 29 percent of developers said they would bring new apps to Android next year, while Windows Phone 7 and the iPad tied, drawing 20 percent of developer interest each.
The surprise is not Android's strength -- the platform continues to take the lead from Apple -- but that Microsoft's new mobile platform is gaining at least as much attention as the iPad, which already has a growing reputation as a major market force.

And that's a problem for Apple. CEO Steve Jobs has repeatedly pointed to the depth of apps available on the iOS platform, so clearly third-party software is a big sales feature. Apple tried to discourage multi-platform development in hopes of keeping focus on its own products, but had to drop that attempt to avoid more regulatory heat.

Even though it has pushed these new categories -- consumer tablets and multi-touch smartphones â€" the early mover advantage now seems to be over. So Apple will need to find other ways to push its mobile primacy, and as other platforms hit that devilish "good enough" point, we may actually see the market become even more diverse, rather than less.

The good news for Apple and bad news for HP (HPQ)? Only 4 percent of developers have plans for the webOS platform, which is even less than for Symbian. HP's acquisition of Palm may come to naught, at least on the handset front.


Image: RGBStock.com user mckenna71, site standard license.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.