Interest in the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system among developers has dropped sharply during the year – although there is interest in developing for Windows 8 tablets.
Windows 8 features a combined touch screen and desktop interface and is set to be released in October in a launch that will be combined with Windows Phone 8.
According to a survey by analyst firm IDC and Appcelerator (PDF), Apple iOS and Android remain the leading operating systems for developers of mobile applications, with interest in both Windows Phone and RIM BlackBerry declining over the past year.
Although Windows Phone has been only of peripheral interest to mobile developers, interest dropped off after Microsoft pre-announced Windows Phone 8 in May.
However, the developer interest in Windows 8 tablets suggests a way forward for Microsoft, says IDC. The company, it says, should "provide a clearer path and tools to help developers port their apps for ARM-based devices... to x86-based devices."
It adds: "Microsoft has previously announced a two-track Windows 8 device strategy: Windows 8 tablets based upon x86 architectures (generally aimed at business users), and Windows 8 RT
tablets (generally aimed at consumers) that will run on ARM-based architectures.
"For most mobile app developers, it is believed to be much easier to port from one ARM-based operating system (like iOS or Android) to another ARM-based operating system (like Windows RT), and significantly more complex to port from an ARM-based OS to an x86-based OS implementation like Windows 8."
It concludes: "Developers are also very clear on what they need to help them port from ARM-based devices to x86-based devices: the ability to provide consistent app user experiences and to efficiently re-use code."
The survey found a high degree of interest in the Metro touch-screen user interface, which is built into all Microsoft's new operating systems, with 44 per cent of respondents comparing it favourably to Android and iOS, although 35 per cent fear that it will be challenging to adapt their applications to take account of it, and the many different form factors in which it may be used.
Developers are also keen to develop with the cloud in mind, says the report, with more than four-fifths using or planning to use cloud services in their developments. However, Apple's lead in mobile operating systems means that Apple's iCloud is preferred above Microsoft Azure, while Amazon is also widely used.
The biggest challenges facing app developers are the multiple operating systems and taking account of the multiple different devices that their apps will be running on, cited by a majority of respondents. Just under half cited the different development languages that they need to learn in order to create apps.
"Apple's iCloud and Amazon's cloud platform offerings are at the top of surveyed developers' plans. Microsoft's Azure trails, with only tepid interest. This again underscores the challenges facing Microsoft in terms of translating its enterprise strengths in Azure, Windows, and Office into the mobile space," it says.
It adds: "50.4 per cent of developers plan to work with iCloud, and 49.1 per cent with Amazon, but only 18.6 per cent plan to work with Microsoft's Azure."