By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
May 18, 2008

“Developers,” a VP at Electronic Arts once told me, explaining why there were so many me-too Windows applications, “will walk through the desert in their socks to get to an installed base.”

True enough. But it doesn’t quite explain the results of a survey issued last week by Evans Data Corp. The headline was that most developers are still not targeting Windows Vista when they write new apps. Only 8% of the 380 developers surveyed were writing for Vista; 49% were still targeting Windows XP.

That makes sense, given that XP still enjoys a 73% market share, compared with less than 15% for Vista, according the latest NetApplications report (link).

What is harder to justify, using the desert-and-socks rule, is the sharply increased interest in non-Windows platforms. The press release didn’t mention it, but Evans Data CEO John Andrews did in an interview with Computerworld’s Heather Havenstein:

“Open source alternatives like Linux continue to take on interest,” he [said]. “As well, MacOS is also acquiring significant interest among North American developers. Although unlikely to displace Windows volume, MacOS experienced 50 percent growth as a primary development platform and 380 percent growth as a targeted platform during the period.” (link)

We’ve asked Evans Data to clarify this quote, because in this form it’s not particularly helpful. The 380% figure sounds suspiciously like a misquote, given that the size of the survey group was also 380. And that 50% increase is unanchored; it could mean 1 more developer writing for Mac or 100.

But any increase in Mac and Linux development is surprising — and encouraging — given that Microsoft (MSFT) still owns more than 91% of desktops, Apple’s (AAPL) OS runs on 7.38% and Linux still hasn’t cracked the 1% mark.

Could programmers be developing an interest in something beyond the size of the installed base?

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