Java ME irrelevant?

Developer Economics Report reveals mobile and tablet sectors dominating, Java ME floundering

Chris Mayer
Money-Mobile

The Developer Economics Report 2012 shows that two platforms are accelerating ahead of the rest – can Java ME possibly change the tide? Erm no.

The mobile developer ecosystem is currently booming, a
comprehensive report into the rapidly accelerating mobile app
sector has (as you might expect) shown – with the usual suspects of
iOS and Android getting the vast majority of developer
mindshare.

Developer Economics Report 2012, the third in a series of
developer research reports looked at five main areas:
redefinition of mobile ecosystems, developer segmentation, revenues
vs. costs in the mobile economy, app marketing and distribution and
regional supply vs. demand of apps. Over 1,500+
developers from 83 different countries were interviewed as part of
the process on the seven major platforms
-
 Android, iOS, mobile web, Windows Phone,
BlackBerry, Qt and Java ME.

From the 75-page report, we can glean some interesting insights
into how the mobile landscape is shifting, with iOS and Android the
only remaining active platforms after 2011’s period of developer
experimentation. Android just pips iOS, attaining 76% of mindshare
to Apple’s 66% – far out in the lead compared to other players.
Unsurprisingly, smartphones now account for over 36% of total
handset sales (145M units shipped in Q1 2012).

Whilst the vast majority of developers surveyed targeted
smartphones (85%), more and more are dabbling in the burgeoning
world of tablets, now there is an established and innovating
market. The interesting thing to note is that iOS developers are
the most engaged with tablets (namely the iPad), with Android and
Java ME developers lagging behind without a strong and
globally-available tablet to develop for. The Kindle Fire would be
the closest – but of course, it isn’t as readily available as
Apple’s device.

The report also notes the wider scope for Java ME developers when
it comes to targeting devices, with ME being present in a lot of
older technologies still holding stock in less-affluent
countries:

Also note that Java ME developers have the widest diversity of
target devices. Naturally, their primary targets are
feature-phones. However, some 14% of them also target TVs and
set-top boxes, a much higher percentage than in other developer
segments.

But the report is also particularly scathing of Java ME:

Java ME, being primarily a feature-phone platform, has been
shrinking in Developer Mindshare, slipping 11 percentage points,
year-on-year. This indicates dwindling feature-phone market share,
and the platform’s inability to achieve feature parity with other
ecosystems, as it still lacks a global app store. Java apps today
are sold mainly via telco app stores, which have very low download
traffic. As a result, very few game content providers still pursue
the Java app market. Last but not least, with Oracle’s acquisition
of Sun, the Java ME platform seems leaderless, with Oracle
apparently focused more on extracting patent damages from Google
than salvaging the platform.

Damning, but spot-on, especially in that many developers are
jumping ship from Java ME. 40% want to abandon it, but why? Well,
there’s no grand plan from Oracle in what to do with it but the
consensus appears to be that they’ll let it die a slower death,
which is wise with many developing nations still reliant on the
aging platform. The recent JCP merger of SE and ME further suggests
that the latter holds little bearing on a developer’s mind. It’s
clear that Java ME’s business model is outdated and hasn’t kept up
with the times, and the report hammers the final nail into Java
ME’s coffin – ‘the crash is inevitable’.

Check
out the full report
, sponsored by BlueVia, for in-depth
analysis into the mobile ecosystem, its economics and future
challenges.

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