For many of the 1,000-plus developers at the Sprint Open Developers Conference on Tuesday, there was but one word on their lips: Android.
While talk in the past has focused on Windows Mobile or Palm, the biggest topic of conversation at the ninth annual conference in Santa Clara was Google's 1-year-old smart phone operating system, which has become the darling of the mobile development world.
Frenzied programmers tired of the iPhone as well as companies looking for the next big thing are increasingly turning their attention to the new kid on the block and throwing significant resources behind the fledgling platform.
"Now that Android has many more handsets and carriers, it really looks like it will grow big," said Jaime Gonzales, tech director for Buongiorno, a mobile content company. "I think Android will pass the iPhone in users and developers and eventually in the number of applications."
Gonzales is just one of many developers who are captivated by Android's upside. The free and open source operating system premiered a year ago on just one phone model, the G1, but in recent months has gained support from three of the top four U.S. carriers and is being built into phones from Motorola, Samsung, HTC, LG and many others.
Flurry, a mobile analytics company, reported this week that Android app development has jumped 94 percent in September and October.
"Flurry market data shows that Android continues to gain interest from application developers, and that iPhone is no longer the only game in town," said Simon Khalaf, Flurry president and chief executive officer. "Developers who used to develop only for iPhone are now adding Android applications to their lineup in record numbers."
Rishi Mallik, senior manager of business development at video streaming service Qik, said Android is just one of many platforms it supported over the last year. But in the last several months, Qik has made Android its primary focus for research and development.
"We had an idea that Android was going to be big but after playing with the platform and seeing the trends in the market, it really crystallized the fact that our hunch was correct," Mallik said.
It's not just the momentum that is opening eyes. Developers also see a viable alternative to Apple's mighty iPhone and its App Store, which now boasts more than 85,000 apps. In some cases, Apple's success in attracting developers has prompted some programmers to look for the next big opportunity, away from the crowded App Store. The Android Marketplace, by contrast, boasts 10,000 apps.
"With the iPhone, it's harder and harder to get notoriety for developers," said Justin Schwab, a partner with Synova Ventures, which develops mobile apps for companies. "A lot of our clients were watching the market to see if it was worth investing in another platform, and now they feel they can monetize on Android."
For carriers, Android presents an opportunity to do battle with Apple's iPhone, which runs exclusively on AT&T's network.
Steve Elfman, president of network operations and wholesale for Sprint, said it's not just about iPhone envy. He said the Android ecosystem is growing with so much broad support that it has the potential to become a new standard for the industry.
"In the old PC days, Apple came out with a vertically integrated computer that was great but was a niche product, while Windows became the operating system for all manufacturers to build on," he said. "I think Android has the opportunity to be the Windows of 2010 and beyond."
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