TORONTO Mobile software developers remain fixated on Apple and on Google's Android as the prime targets of their toil, but Microsoft and Research In Motion are making inroads as tablet offerings multiply.
The iPhone, which boasts more than 300,000 third-party applications, or apps, retains the attention of 92 percent of developers, according to a survey released on Tuesday by research firm IDC and app platform Appcelerator.
The survey of more than 2,200 developers found many expect to produce more apps for more platforms with more complexity.
"Cloud connectivity, location and social will define the experiences of most applications this year and going forward," said Appcelerator's Scott Schwarzhoff in an interview.
"Respondents said 'last year I was kicking the tires, this year I really am ramping up my efforts'," he added.
Developer intent is a useful indicator of broader interest in a platform, as consumers are drawn to devices that can perform specific tasks such as checking news or stock prices, tracking how far you've run or finding nearby restaurants.
Apple's iPad tablet and Android phones -- which are made by a number of handset makers including HTC, Samsung and Motorola Mobility -- tied for the next biggest share of developer attention, with 87 percent saying they are very interested in each platform.
Android tablets such as Samsung's Galaxy Tab and Motorola's Xoom, which flooded an electronics trade show this month, round out the top tier with interest from 74 percent of developers, up from 62 percent in September.
RIM's BlackBerry smartphone platform and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7, which launched in October, grew cache in a second tier well below Apple and Android but drawing away from Nokia's Symbian and its planned MeeGo offering, which lagged at less than 20 percent interest.
But the sharpest rise in interest was directed at RIM's PlayBook, which the Canadian company has touted heavily to developers since announcing its existence in September. It is expected to launch in March.
"Quite frankly, three months ago we thought this thing (PlayBook) was never going to take off," Schwarzhoff said.
A lot of businesses "know BlackBerry, know RIM and have standardized on it and are saying we need an enterprise-grade tablet and if RIM's coming out with one we have to take a serious look," he said.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they were looking at the PlayBook, compared to 16 percent in September.
In contrast to the rising interest in tablets, the developers surveyed shunned connected televisions, with interest in both Google TV and Apple TV declining sharply.
About 40 percent of respondents were from either North America or Europe with the remaining 18 percent from elsewhere.
The full survey results can be found here: here
(Editing by Gary Hill)