Developers! Developers! Developers!

Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer’s now infamous sweaty, delirious rant is the stuff that legends are made of. While his methods of expression may be far from … subtle, his enthusiasm over the importance of the developer community is rightly placed. Without developers, there are no apps. Without apps, there’s little content. Without robust content, there are no customers.

Survey says
Baird Equity Research recently polled 4,300 developers to gauge interest in various platforms, to see how the developer community at large views different operating systems out there, which, in turn, shows where they will focus their efforts. There’s somewhat of a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, though, as developers follow consumers, and consumers follow developers, which tends to amplify both upwards and downwards momentum for a platform.

Respondents to the survey ranked platforms on a 10-point scale regarding how they viewed the long-term outlook. You can see how the results stack up sequentially as well as year-over-year.

Baird
Source: Baird Equity Research via All Things D.

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iOS interest remains robust as the two top dogs in the market, while almost every other platform saw significant declines compared to a year ago. Just compare the blue bars to the green ones in the chart above.

No one is surprised that interest in Hewlett-Packard’s (NYSE: HPQ) walking-dead webOS has seen a relentless plunge. Last we heard, HP was still committing to the open source release of webOS for September, but this was back in January. Since then, key players in HP’s Enyo team, who were responsible for the platform’s HTML5-based application framework, have been poached by Google. There, they’ll likely be put to work on Chrome OS. Those who left were supposedly "responsible for 99% of the [webOS] code." Not a lot of cause for confidence there among developers, as there are literally no new webOS devices currently on the market.

Windows Phone 7 is also seeing some drop-off in interest, but some of this relates to the announcement of Windows Phone 8. A solid 71% of respondents said that the WP8 announcement piqued their interest in the platform, with 64% also showing optimism about Mr. Softy’s Surface tablet. Those are healthy signs among developers, but the real challenge will be transitioning consumers to Windows Phone 8 in the coming months, because there’s no backwards compatibility or upgrade path for existing devices.

Saving the worst for last
Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) has gone from bad to worse, and the company’s repeated delays of its next-generation operating system aren’t doing developers any favors. The current BlackBerry 7 platform scored a 2.8, just barely higher than webOS at 2.1, a platform that’s a bona fide zombie.

The BlackBerry maker continues to brush off concerns about the delays, instead shifting its message to quality over timing, saying it refuses to launch an unfinished product. That may sound noble, but it’s now been over two years since RIM bought QNX Software, which serves as the foundation for BlackBerry 10. By the time BB 10 is released, we’ll be approaching three. That also assumes there aren’t further delays. What happens if the OS still isn’t competitive, even after the delayed launch? More importantly, what if it has no actual advantages over iOS and Android? Why switch?

RIM’s decision to support Android apps actually seems to be hurting its BlackBerry-specific developer base also, as Baird’s results also show that developers are shifting their focus more towards Android as a result, because they can simply repackage their Android apps for BlackBerrys with a little extra legwork.
Rim
 

Source: Baird Equity Research via All Things D.

A significant chunk of developers have shifted some or all of their efforts away from BB 10 and towards Android, with a large subset shifting all work accordingly. Developer outlook for RIM is at nearly two-year lows.

With developers feeling this gloomy about the BlackBerry platform, how should consumers feel?

You might have noticed that Apple was the only platform that showed a sequential gain in the second quarter in developer outlook. That’s one of many reasons that investors should also have a bright outlook on the Mac maker’s shares. There are plenty of other reasons, and you can find them all right here in our brand new premium Apple research service. This year is an election year, and this handful of stocks might see a big boost after the presidential election. Grab a copy of this report to read more. It’s totally free.