The iPad may be weeks away from hitting the stores, but it's already creating a surge in the development of new applications -- increasing Apple's lead in programs written for its devices over those running on Google's Android software.
During the second half of 2009, Android's new application growth began to close its gap with the iPhone, according to Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile analytics company that gives developers a tool that compiles information about the use of their applications. But last month, as the impending announcement of the iPad dominated the tech world, new apps for the iPhone operating system nearly tripled from December.
"It's almost like over the summer you grew two inches, but your brother grew eight inches," said Peter Farago, Flurry's vice president of marketing. "Android is doing better than ever. Their handsets are better than ever."
Overall, though, developers "show they are more excited about the possibility of what Apple is doing than what Google and its alliances are doing," he said.
In December, about 70 percent of new applications using its tool were for the iPhone OS, and 30 percent were created for Android. Last month, the spread increased to 90 percent for the iPhone, 10 percent for Android, Farago added.
Farago attributes most of that increase to apps being developed for the iPad. But whether the developers are new to the iPhone OS, or were already making applications for the phone and are now adding the iPad to their businesses, is not the most important factor, said Gartner Research analyst Mike McGuire. What matters is which platform creates the strongest following of developers.
"This is the race we will be watching for a while between companies like Apple and Google, and to some degree Microsoft and Nokia," he said. "It's not just about the ability to create a compelling piece of hardware. It's about making apps that bring people to the platform and keep them there. At some point, developers will start making strategic decisions -- which of these platforms do I put my time behind. This is a straight-up business decision."
Last month Apple said its App Store had more than 140,000 apps for iPhone users to choose from. There are more than 20,000 apps available for Android phones.
"As long as Apple is making a nice business opportunity for all these developers, they'll continue to support" the iPhone platform, Farago said.
The jump in new iPhone OS applications -- Flurry tracked more than 1,600 in January -- is more than other increases the start-up has observed. Flurry tracks more than 20,000 live applications across iPhone and Android systems.
"I've never seen a jump like this," said Farago, whose company has been tracking application development for a year. There were more modest increases in development activity surrounding the launch of the iPhone 3Gs last summer and prior to the Verizon Droid phone launch in November, he said.
This is good news for Apple, he added.
"We are like an early indicator of the supply pipeline. We see stuff sometimes three months ahead of time," Farago said. "What you are seeing is a lot of developers trying to get in there early so they can hopefully beat the stampede. But in effect they are creating a stampede."
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