There are many things wrong with Henry Blodget’s Business Insider piece “This Android Chart Should Scare the Bejesus Out Of Apple.”
First, the chart that Blodget cites isn’t an “Android chart” at all. Rather, it’s a Silicon Valley Insider chart titled “Percent Of Developers That Have Developed For Each Mobile Platform.” So let’s start with the obvious: Calling this an “Android chart” is sloppy, yet an impressively accurate foreteller of the piece’s overall quality.
The chart purports to reveal that 60% of developers surveyed have developed for Android, while only 50% of developers surveyed developed for iOS. Blodget doesn’t spend any time revealing how this supposedly Apple-terrifying data was gathered, but I looked into it. This data comes from a survey of 400 developers spanning 290 companies, according to this report. That means, of course, that this survey—which, again, attempted to figure out how many developers worked on popular mobile OSes—surveyed multiple people from the same companies. That may be accurate for getting a headcount, but it doesn’t really tell me how many companies focus on iOS vs. Android. It may well indicate that Android development requires more developers per company than iOS development does, but there’s not enough context provided to make that sort of analysis.
Even a minimally more-detailed look at this supposedly-damning chart reveals its overall lameness: As survey producer VisionMobile writes, “Android stands out as the top platform according to developer experience, with close to 60 percent of developers having recently developed on Android, assuming an equal number of developers with experience on each of eight major platforms. iOS (iPhone) follows closely as the next most popular platform.” (Emphasis mine.)
I got a 5 on the AP Stats exam, but that was more than a decade ago. But let me see if I have this right: If you normalize the data so that you account for equal respondents across platforms, and if you then measure platform success by how many developers in your small-pool survey with an average of more than two developers pulled per company reported recent experience with a given mobile operating system, Android pulls out ahead?
Here’s my favorite part of Blodget’s analysis: He writes that, “As you look at [the chart], remember that, two years ago, Android was nowhere.” Also remember, of course, that it was almost two years ago to the day that the App Store first opened. So in that sense, third-party iOS development was also nowhere two years ago.
Look, I would love for Android to score glowing success, attract developers, and sell phones (like the Incredible and the Droid X) at volumes like Apple’s recent iPhone 4 juggernaut. Android improvements force iPhone innovation, and I’m all for that. But suggesting that Apple should be fearful based on a lousily-researched and even more lousily-analyzed report is simply insultingly stupid.