Developers crazy about Apple tablet, survey says

90% want to build software for new device; productivity apps leads to-do list

Application developers are eager to start building software for Apple's expected tablet, according to a just-published survey from Appcelerator, a maker of developer tools.

Nine out of 10 of the 550 developers surveyed by Appcelerator said they were "very interested" in creating an Apple tablet application in the next year, said Scott Schwarzhoff, the company's head of marketing. "Developers are overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the tablet," Schwarzhoff said.

That's true even though the details of the tablet are unknown, Schwarzhoff continued, or when compared to interest in other, more established platforms. While 86% of the developers polled said they were interested in developing for the iPhone, and 68% said the same for Google 's Android mobile operating system, the tablet came in third, with 58%, more than double the 21% who named BlackBerry and more than three times the 17% who voted for the Palm Pre.

"I think there will be a lot of frenzy over the tablet, a lot of experimentation by developers," Schwarzhoff said.

Unlike other pre-launch clues, including metrics from devices being used on Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus , which have pegged e-book applications and games at the top of the likely uses, the developers polled by Appcelerator were interested in a wider range of software. The top five categories for tablet development were business/productivity, entertainment, social networking, education and games, in that order.

"The biggest point is that developers don't see the tablet as just all about games," said Schwarzhoff. "Developers are thinking of the table as its own unique experience. Software doesn't have to be a mobile app, doesn't have to be a desktop app. The successful ones will realize that they can take some of their learning from mobile and some from the desktop, and experiment with something in between."

It wasn't a surprise, then, that the top vote getter for anticipated tablet features was local data storage, with multitouch second and multitasking fourth.

"If you're an indie developer, this is a train you're going to jump on. You're going to be all over this, either as new app opportunities or conversions from iPhone apps," Schwarzhoff said. "But businesses and ISVs [independent software vendors] will likely go 'Hmmm ... this is a third platform. I already have mobile and a Web site to maintain, help me understand and rationalize what I should be doing.' "

Because of their popularity, especially on other mobile platforms like the iPhone, Schwarzhoff expects to see social networking software and applications with local uses almost immediately on the tablet.

Appcelerator will add the APIs (application programming interfaces) for core tablet features to its Titanium framework as soon as possible, assuming Apple releases an SDK (software developers toolkit) at the same time it reveals the tablet.

"For the most-requested features, we can [get them into Titanium] within a couple of weeks to a couple of months," said Schwarzhoff. Appcelerator hopes to add support for the most-requested features -- including multitasking, any advanced multitouch gestures that the tablet offers, and tablet-specific user-interface components -- almost immediately. Assuming Apple releases an SDK, Appcelerator plans to make public its tablet support timetable on Thursday.

Frequently compared to Adobe Air, Appcelerator's Titanium lets Web developers create native iPhone, Android, PC, Mac and Linux applications using JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub will live-blog Apple's event today starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , send e-mail to gkeizer@ix.netcom.com or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed .

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Gregg Keizer

Computerworld (US)
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